Soft tissue sarcoma can spread to more distant areas of the body, most commonly the lungs. The outlook for people with metastatic soft tissue sarcoma is typically poor.
Soft tissue sarcoma (STS) is a type of cancer that affects the body’s soft tissues. This can include soft tissues such as muscles, connective tissue, and blood vessels.
It’s possible for STS to start anywhere in the body. As STS advances, it may spread to more distant organs and tissues. This is called metastasis.
STS is when cancer forms in soft tissues. Soft tissues can include the
- connective tissue
- blood vessels
- lymph vessels
- joint tissue, called synovial tissue
- a mix of bone and cartilage
It’s possible for STS to form in any area of the body, including your:
- arms and legs
- head or neck
Metastasis is when cancer spreads from its original site to more distant organs and tissues. You may also see it referred to as stage 4 cancer.
Metastasis isn’t uncommon in STS. In fact, it’s estimated that
General symptoms of metastatic cancer can include:
Below, we’ll explore a little more about each potential metastatic site and possible symptoms.
The liver has many vital functions in the body, including, but not limited to, making bile (a yellow or greenish fluid) for digestion and breaking down medications and other substances.
Symptoms of liver metastasis include:
- yellowing of your skin or eyes (jaundice)
- abdominal swelling (ascites)
- leg swelling
- pain in the upper right part of your abdomen
- itchy skin
STS that spreads to your bones can cause a variety of problems. These can be:
- bone pain
- bone weakness, leading to fractures or breaks
- spinal cord compression, which can lead to:
- high calcium in the blood, which can cause:
The peritoneum is the lining of your abdominal cavity. Symptoms of the type of STS that metastasizes here can include:
STS may also sometimes spread to other soft tissues. When this happens, you may notice a lump or bump on your body that gradually gets larger. It may or may not be tender or painful and can interfere with nearby tissues.
Your lymph nodes help to filter germs from your lymphatic system. Symptoms that STS may have spread to the lymph nodes include persistent lymph node swelling. Swollen lymph nodes may also be tender or painful.
Metastatic STS in the brain may cause symptoms such as:
Anyone who has STS can develop a metastasis. But
- the specific type of STS, because some types of STS are more aggressive than others
- higher tumor grade, which means that cancer cells look more abnormal and are more likely to be aggressive
- larger primary tumor size
- a primary tumor that’s located deeper in your body
- nearby lymph nodes that contain cancer cells
There are a few treatment options available for people with an STS metastasis. These include:
- Surgery: In some situations, surgery can still be done to remove metastatic STS. According to the
American Cancer Society (ACS), the outlook for people with metastatic STS that’s treated with surgery is best when the metastatic site is the lungs.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs that affect the division of cancer cells. Doxorubicin, often with ifosfamide, is a
common first-line treatmentfor metastatic STS.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses high energy radiation to kill cancer cells. It may also be used in combination with chemotherapy.
- Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy drugs focus on specific markers in or on cancer cells. An example of a targeted therapy drug that may be used for STS is pazopanib (Votrient).
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy helps your immune system respond to cancer, although its effectiveness for STS is still being studied. Immune checkpoint inhibitors such as pembrolizumab (Keytruda) are being studied in clinical trials of medications for the treatment of STS.
Remember that STS is a very diverse group of cancers. As such, the exact treatment that’s recommended for you will depend on the type of STS you have and other individual factors such as age and overall health.
Factors that can influence the outlook for people with metastatic STS include:
- the type of STS
- the location of the metastasis
- how fast the STS is growing and spreading
- how the STS responds to treatment
- your age and overall health
Generally speaking, the outlook for people with metastatic STS is poor. A 2020 study of 212 individuals with metastatic STS found that the median overall survival time was 24 months.
The 5-year survival rate for people with metastatic STS is
A 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people with a certain type and stage of cancer who are alive 5 years after receiving a diagnosis.
It’s important to know that these statistics don’t account for individual differences or recent advances in treatment. If you’ve received a diagnosis of metastatic STS, speak with a healthcare professional about your specific outlook.
How common is soft tissue sarcoma?
STS isn’t common. The ACS estimates that
Can soft tissue sarcoma be prevented?
One of the main risk factors for STS is having
The lungs are the most common site for STS to spread to. Less often, it can spread to other areas such as the liver, bones, or peritoneum. Factors such as type of STS, higher tumor grade, and larger tumor size increase the risk of metastasis.
The outlook for people with metastatic STS is typically poor. But every individual is different. A professional healthcare team can give you a better idea of your specific outlook.