Sarcomas of Specific Organs: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 06/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

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 sarcoma do not have any symptoms. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not cancer.

Symptoms of sarcoma may include:

  • A painless mass or growth in the arm, 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 the sarcoma develops. For example, with cardiac sarcoma, symptoms depend on where the tumor is located around the heart. 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, or stretching, of neck veins. This happens because the blood returning to the heart after traveling through the body cannot easily enter or leave the right atrium, a heart chamber.

Cardiac sarcoma that occurs in the pericardium, which is the membrane outside of the heart, can cause bleeding into and 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 any changes you experience, 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 figure 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 be called palliative care or supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.