Types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma
Although soft tissue sarcoma is a relatively rare form of cancer, doctors have identified many different types. At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we specialize in treating all forms of soft-tissue cancer.
Malignant fibrous histiocytoma: Soft tissue tumor
Malignant fibrous histiocytoma is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma. It originates in fibrous tissue, the tough tissue that forms tendons and ligaments, and covers bones and other parts of the body. MFH can also spread to the bones.
MFH typically affects adults between ages 50 to 70, and is more common in men and Caucasians. The most common location for the tumor to occur is the thigh, followed by the arm and abdomen. A milder form of MFH involves the skin and is known as a cutaneous MFH.
Malignant fibrous histiocytoma is a painless soft tissue mass that slowly increases in size until it starts causing symptoms like swelling, pain, numbness and tingling. The mass can invade bone and cause fractures. In most cases, the tumor has been growing for 4 to 6 months by the time a patient visits a doctor.
MFH is an aggressive soft tissue cancer that is likely to recur and spread (metastasize) to the lungs, lymph nodes, liver and bone.
Leiomyosarcoma: Malignant soft tissue tumor
Leiomyosarcoma is the 2nd most common soft tissue sarcoma occurring in adulthood. It accounts for up to 25% of all soft tissue sarcomas. Leiomyosarcoma typically appears as a slowly enlarging, painless soft tissue mass that occurs deep in the soft tissues of the extremities.
These malignant tumors affect men more than women, typically around age 50. They are uncommon in children. Leiomyosarcomas arise from smooth muscles, which are muscles that are not voluntarily controlled, such as the muscle that causes the hair on the arms to stand on end. These tumors often grow within the walls of the veins or intestines. Most people have no symptoms until the tumor is large enough to affect nearby areas, causing tenderness, pain or decreased range of motion. It is not uncommon for leiomyosarcomas to grow larger than cantaloupes or even watermelons.
Liposarcoma: Malignant soft tissue tumor
Liposarcoma is another of the more common soft tissue sarcomas occurring in adulthood. It accounts for up to 25% of all soft tissue sarcomas. Liposarcoma usually develops deep within the musculature, with the thigh being the most typical location. Most patients with liposarcoma have no symptoms until the tumor is large and impacts neighboring areas.
These tumors occur in men more often than women, typically between ages 40 to 60. Often, liposarcomas have no symptoms when the tumor is still small. Tumor growth can cause later symptoms such as painful swelling, decreased range of motion, numbness, enlargement of varicose veins, fatigue, nausea, vomiting or weight loss.
Five-year survival is 100% for cases of liposarcoma where the cancer cells look more like normal tissue. This is known as a well-differentiated tumor. The area where the tumor is located has a major impact in survivorship rates.
Angiosarcoma: Malignant soft tissue tumor
Angiosarcoma is a cancer of the inner lining of blood vessels that can occur in any area of the body. The disease most commonly occurs in the skin, breast, liver, spleen and deep tissues, as well as the scalp. Angiosarcomas are rare, accounting for only 1% of all soft tissue sarcomas.
Like other soft tissue cancers, angiosarcomas exhibit little to no pain or other symptoms. Angiosarcomas often spread along the skin and to the lungs before a patient visits a doctor. These tumors often occur in areas of prior radiation.
Up to 50% of those with angiosarcoma may have distant spread of the disease at the time of diagnosis, which may shorten survival. Overall survival depends on the state and aggressiveness of disease. Many people can live 5 years or more.