Soft tissue sarcoma

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Treatments for soft tissue sarcoma

If you have soft tissue sarcoma, your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your health and specific information about the cancer. When deciding which treatments to offer for soft tissue sarcoma, your healthcare team will consider:

  • the grade and stage
  • where the cancer started in the body
  • the type of soft tissue sarcoma
  • what you prefer or want

The care and treatment of people with soft tissue sarcoma is often done by a healthcare team that is experienced in dealing with soft tissue sarcoma. Most cases of soft tissue sarcoma need to be managed by many specialists, including a radiologist, surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist.

You may be offered one or more of the following treatments for soft tissue sarcoma.

Surgery

Surgery is the main treatment for most soft tissue sarcomas. Depending on the size and location of the tumour, you may have one or more of the following types of surgery.

Wide local excision removes the cancer along with some normal tissue around it. It is used to treat soft tissue sarcoma that is only in the area where it started (localized). It may also be used for soft tissue sarcoma that has come back in the area where it started (local recurrence).

Limb-sparing surgery removes a tumour from an arm or a leg (a limb) without removing the whole arm or leg. It is used to treat soft tissue sarcoma that is only in an arm or a leg and hasn’t spread anywhere else in the body.

Mohs surgery removes the cancer in layers, little by little, until no cancer remains. It may be used for soft tissue sarcoma that can be seen near the surface of the skin.

Reconstructive surgery repairs the skin and nearby area after the tumour is removed. When a large area has been removed to make sure the cancer is completely gone, the doctor rebuilds the area using a piece of tissue from another part of the body.

Amputation removes all or part of a limb. It is not usually done for soft tissue sarcoma. Amputation may be needed if the cancer has grown into certain nerves, blood vessels and muscles so the limb won’t work properly or if there will be many long-term problems after surgery.

Lymph node dissection removes a group of lymph nodes from the body. It may be done for soft tissue sarcoma that has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Surgery for lung metastases may be done to remove metastatic soft tissue sarcoma that has spread to only one area or a few areas in the lungs.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. External radiation therapy may be given before or after surgery. It is most often used for high-grade soft tissue sarcomas to lower the risk of the cancer coming back where it started.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses anticancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is most often used to treat advanced soft tissue sarcoma. It can also be used to lower the risk of the cancer coming back. The most common chemotherapy drug used is doxorubicin (Adriamycin).

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on or inside cancer cells to stop the growth and spread of cancer and limit harm to normal cells. It is usually used in people with advanced soft tissue sarcoma. A targeted therapy drug that may be used is pazopanib (Votrient).

Follow-up care

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. You will need to have regular follow-up visits, especially in the first 5 years after treatment has finished. These visits allow your healthcare team to monitor your progress and recovery from treatment.

Clinical trials

Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to people in Canada with soft tissue sarcoma. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Questions to ask about treatment

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about treatment.

radiology

The use of imaging techniques (such as x-rays, CT scan or MRI) to study, diagnose and treat disease.

A doctor who specializes in using imaging techniques is called a radiologist.

medical oncologist

A doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancers using chemotherapy, biological therapy, hormonal therapy and supportive therapy.

The medical oncologist is often the primary healthcare provider for a person with cancer and will coordinate with other specialists.

radiation oncologist

A doctor who specializes treating cancers using radiation therapy.

high-grade

Referring to or having to do with cancer cells that do not look or act like normal cells (undifferentiated) and tumours that tend to grow and spread quickly.

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