Sarcoma, Soft Tissue: Symptoms and Signs

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2014

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

People with sarcoma may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with sarcoma do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

STS rarely causes symptoms in the early stages. The first sign of a sarcoma in an arm, leg, or torso may be a painless lump or swelling. Most lumps are not sarcoma. The most common soft-tissue lumps are lipomas, which are made of fat cells and are not cancer. These lumps have often been there for many years and do not change in size. However, it’s important to talk with your doctor about any lumps that get larger or are painful, regardless of their location. People with sarcoma that starts in the abdomen may not have any symptoms, or they may have pain or a sense of fullness.

Because STS can develop in flexible, elastic tissues or deep spaces in the body, the tumor can often easily push normal tissue out of its way as it grows. Therefore, a sarcoma may grow quite large before it causes symptoms. Eventually, it may cause pain as the growing tumor begins to press against nerves and muscles.

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If sarcoma is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section helps explain which tests and scans may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Diagnosis, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.