Ms ClaudiaSoft tissue sarcoma

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What is a soft tissue sarcoma?

Soft tissue sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that forms as a painless lump usually in the lower or upper limbs. There are over 70 types of soft tissue sarcomas and these are named after the abnormal cells which make up the sarcoma.

The commonest soft tissue sarcoma is the malignant fibrohistiocytoma (MFH) which is made up of millions of abnormal spindle shaped cells. Liposarcoma is the next most common type of soft tissue sarcoma that is made up of millions of abnormal fat cells.

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Causes of soft tissue sarcoma

The majority of soft tissue sarcomas develop without cause. A rare form of soft tissue sarcoma, neurosarcoma begins in a condition known as neurifibromatosis (Von Reklinghausen’s disease). Here the patient has multiple small soft tissue lumps caused by an abnormal growth and expansion of nerves. Some of these begin as benign lumps but over time turn into sarcomas.

Occasionally, patients who have received radiotherapy to a part may also develop soft tissue sarcomas in the same region.

An extremely uncommon cause of soft tissue sarcoma is hereditary where an abnormality in a parent’s gene may increase the risk of his/her children developing sarcoma in later life. In this very special condition (Li-Fraumeni syndrome) several relatives or parents of a person may have multiple tumours including bone and soft tissue sarcomas. A person with a history of many cancers should be advised of the possibility that they may carry an abnormal gene that may increase the risk of sarcoma in future generations.