Soft tissue sarcoma is rare cancer that can develop in any part of your body, including your feet. It starts in various soft tissues such as muscles, blood vessels, or connective tissue. Most of these tumors respond well to treatment.

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Soft tissue sarcoma, in general, is rare. The American Cancer Society estimates that 13,400 people in the United States will receive this diagnosis in 2023. It most commonly develops in your thigh when it develops in your limbs.

Soft tissue sarcoma can develop in your feet, but it’s extremely rare, and most tumors of the feet aren’t cancerous. Experts think that less than 5% of soft tissue sarcomas develop in the feet.

Learn more about soft tissue sarcoma.

Sarcoma is a group of more than 60 types of cancers that can start in bone or soft tissues, such as:

  • muscles
  • tendons
  • fat
  • blood vessels
  • nerves

Most tumors that form in the soft tissue of your foot are noncancerous. Cancerous soft tissue tumors are extremely rare.

In a small 2016 study, researchers found that synovial sarcoma was the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma among 62 cases treated at their clinic between 1992 to 2013. Synovial sarcoma develops in tissue near a joint.

Experts think that synovial sarcoma makes up 5% to 10% of soft tissue tumors of the foot and ankle and 45% to 55% of sarcomas of the foot.

Chondrosarcoma seems to be the most common cancer of the foot in people more than 40 years old. This type of sarcoma develops in cartilage. It usually starts in a bone but can also develop in cartilage near your bones.

Soft tissue sarcoma symptoms can include:

  • a noticeable mass anywhere in your foot
  • pain
  • swelling
  • numbness or tingling if the tumor compresses nerves
  • skin ulcers
  • limping that occurs without a hip or knee cause (typically a symptom in children)

Synovial sarcoma tends to appear as a painless swelling.

An extremely rare soft tissue sarcoma called clear cell carcinoma occurs in the foot or ankle about 40% of the time. It usually appears as a small, slow-growing mass. About half of people with it have pain or tenderness.

The majority of soft tissue sarcomas occur spontaneously, meaning they have no known cause. Some genetic conditions link with a higher chance of developing sarcoma. They include:

The main tests for soft tissue sarcomas are a biopsy and imaging. Doctors can take a biopsy using a hollow needle to remove a small piece of tissue.

Doctors usually recommend a biopsy unless your lump is clearly a synovial cyst or plantar fibromatosis, two noncancerous conditions.

Experts generally consider MRI the best imaging technique for trunk and extremity soft tissue sarcomas.

Doctors use five standard treatment types to treat soft tissue sarcoma:

The main treatment for many types of soft tissue sarcoma of the foot, such as chondrosarcoma, is surgery with or without radiation therapy.

Doctors traditionally used amputation, but these days, doctors often try to spare as much of the foot as possible.

Research links soft tissue sarcoma to:

  • previous radiation therapy
  • chronic lymphedema (blockage of lymph vessels)
  • environmental exposure to:
    • thorotrast
    • polyvinyl chloride

Cancerous tumors of the foot tend to occur more frequently in children and adolescents than in adults, especially in the heel.

Experts think the outlook of soft tissue sarcoma in the foot is similar to that in other parts of your body.

The American Cancer Society reports the following survival rates for soft tissue sarcoma overall. Five-year relative survival is a measure of the odds of being alive 5 years later compared with a person without cancer.

Stage5-year relative survival rate
Regional 56%
All stages65%

A type of sarcoma called rhabdomyosarcoma tends to have a less favorable outlook in the foot or hand than in other body parts.

Chondrosarcoma tends to be less aggressive in the foot than other body parts, especially when it develops in your forefoot.

In the small 2016 study, soft tissue sarcomas more than 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) across were associated with a less favorable outlook.

Learn more about soft tissue sarcoma survival rates.

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about soft tissue sarcomas of the foot.

What other conditions can cause a lump in your foot?

Conditions that can cause similar symptoms as soft tissue sarcoma include:

When should I get medical attention if I think I have soft tissue sarcoma?

Getting medical attention as soon as possible is critical if you develop a new lump. A biopsy is the only way to know if the lump is cancer.

Can numbness and tingling in my foot be a sign of soft tissue sarcoma?

Sarcoma can cause numbness and tingling if the tumor compresses a nerve. However, there are more likely causes of these symptoms.

Soft tissue sarcoma of the foot is extremely rare. Most tumors that develop in the foot are noncancerous.

Soft tissue sarcoma’s rarity can delay getting this type of diagnosis. Contacting your doctor as soon as you develop new pain or a lump in your foot can increase your chance of a good outlook.