The basics

Soft tissue is the medical name for the parts of your body – other than bone – that connect, support or surround other parts. It includes fat, muscle, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, deep skin tissues and the tissue around your joints. It’s all over your body, so soft tissue sarcomas can grow pretty much anywhere.

Warning signs

Initially, soft tissue sarcomas don’t usually cause any symptoms. But as they grow you’ll often feel a lump – which might be painless at first but starts to hurt as it pushes against nearby nerves and muscles. If you’re reading this page because you’ve noticed a lump, it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor straight away – but remember that most lumps aren’t cancerous.

How’s it diagnosed?

Doctors use a range of tests to diagnose soft tissue sarcomas. MRI scans, CT scans, PET scans and X-rays are all used to find and study lumps. And biopsies are used to take cells from lumps so they can be studied under a microscope for signs of cancer.

You can find out more about all of these techniques in our Getting diagnosed section.

How’s it treated?

Surgery is the most common treatment for soft tissue sarcoma. A surgeon removes the sarcoma and some healthy tissue around it to make sure all of the cancer cells are taken away. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are also sometimes used to kill cancer cells. And you might have a combination of these – with radiotherapy or chemotherapy used before or after surgery.

Find out more about cancer treatments.