Soft tissue sarcoma

You are here: 

Stages of soft tissue sarcoma

Staging describes or classifies a cancer based on how much cancer there is in the body and where it is when first diagnosed. This is often called the extent of cancer. Information from tests is used to find out the size of the tumour, which part of the body the cancer started, whether the cancer has spread from where it first started and where the cancer has spread. Your healthcare team uses the stage to plan treatment and estimate the outcome (your prognosis).

The most common staging system for soft tissue sarcoma is the TNM system. For soft tissue sarcoma there are 4 stages. Often the stages 1 to 4 are written as the Roman numerals I, II, III and IV. Generally, the higher the stage number, the more the cancer has spread. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about staging.

The stages of soft tissue sarcoma apply only to soft tissue sarcoma of the arms, legs, outer parts of the centre of the body (superficial trunk) or back of the abdomen (retroperitoneum). Soft tissue sarcoma of the head and neck and of the large organs inside the chest or abdomen (also called viscera) are not given a stage. These tumours are grouped only by the type and size of the tumour and if it has grown into nearby areas.

The staging system for soft tissue sarcoma does not apply to:

  • Kaposi sarcoma
  • dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans of the head and neck
  • sarcoma that starts in the brain, lining around the brain and spinal cord (dura mater), hollow viscera such as the intestine, or organs that have a specific function (parenchymatous organs)
  • angiosarcoma of the head and neck and the skin
  • rhabdomyosarcoma
  • gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs)
  • orbital sarcoma (a type of eye cancer)
  • desmoid tumours (also called fibromatosis)

When describing the stage, doctors may also use the words localized, regional or metastatic. Localized means that the tumour is only in one area of the body and has not spread to other parts of the body. Regional means close to where the cancer started or around it. Metastatic means in a part of the body farther from where the cancer started.

The stages of soft tissue sarcoma also depend on the grade. The grade describes how different the cancer cells look from normal cells, how quickly they grow and divide, and how likely they are to spread.

Find out more about staging cancer and grading soft tissue sarcoma.

Stage 1A

The tumour is 5 cm or smaller. The soft tissue sarcoma is low grade.

Stage 1B

The tumour is larger than 5 cm. The soft tissue sarcoma is low grade.

Stage 2

The tumour is 5 cm or smaller. The soft tissue sarcoma is high grade.

Stage 3A

The tumour is larger than 5 cm, but not more than 10 cm. The soft tissue sarcoma is high grade.

Stage 3B

The tumour is larger than 10 cm. The soft tissue sarcoma is high grade.

Stage 4

The cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body (called distant metastasis), such as to the lungs or liver. This is also called metastatic soft tissue sarcoma. It is any grade.

Recurrent soft tissue sarcoma

Recurrent soft tissue sarcoma means that the cancer has come back after it has been treated. If it comes back in the same place that the cancer first started, it’s called local recurrence. If it comes back in tissues or lymph nodes close to where it first started, it’s called regional recurrence. It can also recur in another part of the body. This is called distant metastasis or distant recurrence.

viscera

The soft inner organs of the body, especially those in the chest and abdomen, including the heart, lungs, stomach, liver and intestines.

Visceralmeans referring to or having to do with the viscera, as in visceral pleura.

Stories

Paulette Hicks A random act of kindness during one of the most vulnerable times in someone’s life can be powerful.

Read Paulette's story

What’s the lifetime risk of getting cancer?

Icon - 1 in 2

The latest Canadian Cancer Statistics report shows about half of Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

Learn more