Sarcomas of Specific Organs: Symptoms and Signs

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. Often, the only sign that there is a problem is that body part containing the tumor will get bigger or there will be pain. Sometimes, people with these types of tumors do not have any symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

Symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma may include:

  • A painless mass or growth in the leg, buttock, or sometimes on the face or neck
  • Pain or soreness in the area of the mass caused by the tumor pushing on nerves or muscles
  • Limping or other problems with the legs or feet
  • Stiffness in the area with the tumor or difficulty moving an arm or leg

For a sarcoma affecting a specific organ, the symptoms are often related to the organ or body part where they develop. For example with cardiac sarcoma, symptoms depend on where the tumor is located. A tumor can be inside the heart’s chambers, in the muscles of the heart, or on the outside of the heart. If the tumor is inside the heart, it can block the flow of blood and cause swelling of the feet, legs, ankles, or abdomen, as well as distention (stretching) of neck veins. This happens because the blood returning to the heart after traveling through the body is not able to easily enter or be pumped out of the right atrium, one of the chambers of the heart.

Cardiac sarcoma that occurs in the pericardium, which is the membrane outside of the heart, can cause swelling in the pericardial sac. This interferes with the heart’s ability to pump blood. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and heart palpitations, which are a forced or irregular heartbeat.

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list or other unusual problems with your health, 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 your 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 what 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.