About Soft Tissue Sarcoma and Connective Tissue Tumors

Soft tissue sarcomas are a group of cancerous tumors that can occur in any part of the body, including the head and neck, arms and legs, trunk, or the retroperitoneum (back of the abdominal cavity). Oncologists who treat these tumors also frequently manage other types of connective tissue tumors, many of which are not cancerous.

Types of Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Soft tissue sarcomas are found in the soft tissues that connect, support, and surround other body structures. This includes muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, and the lining of your joints. There are more than 50 different types of soft tissue sarcomas.

Examples of soft tissue sarcomas:

  • Angiosarcoma
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP)
  • Fibrosarcoma
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Liposarcoma
  • Myxofibrosarcoma
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Synovial sarcoma
  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma

Tumors that have “sarcoma” in the name are malignant, meaning they are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body.

Types of Connective Tissue Tumors

Connective tissue tumors are also found in the soft tissues that connect, support, and surround other body structures. There are many types of soft tissue tumors, some of which are benign, meaning they are not cancerous and do not spread to other parts of the body.

Examples of connective tissue tumors with uncertain malignant potential:

  • Atypical fibroxanthoma
  • Solitary fibrous tumors

Examples of benign connective tissue tumors:

  • Desmoid tumor
  • Leiomyoma
  • Lipoma
  • Neurofibroma
  • Gangioneuroma
  • Schwannoma

Symptoms of Soft Tissue Sarcomas and Connective Tissue Tumors

Soft tissue sarcoma and connective tissue tumor symptoms depend on the location of the tumor.

In the extremities:

  • Palpable mass (a mass you can feel)
  • Swelling of the limb

In the retroperitoneum:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Nausea

Risk Factors for Soft Tissue Sarcoma and Connective Tissue Tumors

Most soft tissue sarcoma and connective tissue tumors occur without a known risk factor or genetic syndrome. However, in some cases, the tumor can be traced back to certain risk factors or genes.

Common risk factors and genetic syndromes related to soft tissue sarcoma and connective tissue tumors:

  • Prior high dose radiation exposure
  • Lymphedema
  • Genetic syndromes:
    • Gardner syndrome
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
    • Von Recklinghausen disease
    • Inherited retinoblastoma
    • Werner syndrome
    • Gorlin syndrome
    • Tuberous sclerosis

Treating Soft Tissue Sarcoma and Connective Tissue Tumors at UT Health Austin

Treatment requires accurate diagnosis and a care plan tailored to the specific type of tumor, the tumor’s location, and the overall needs of the patient. The different behavior of different tumor types helps drive decisions about treatment, which may include combinations of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Care Team Approach

At UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Your care team will include fellowship-trained cancer surgeons that are nationally recognized leaders at the forefront of their fields as well as physical therapists, social workers, dietitians, and more, who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you. We also collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School, The University of Texas at Austin, and the Livestrong Cancer Institutes to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify new therapies to improve cancer treatment outcomes. We focus on applying advanced surgical techniques, including robotic and laparoscopic surgery and other minimally invasive approaches, and are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with your other healthcare providers to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.

Learn More About Your Care Team

A mature Asian woman wearing a head scarf, smiles broadly while listening to a mature Black male health care provider.

Surgical Oncology Clinic

Health Transformation Building, 8th Floor
1601 Trinity Street, Bldg. A, Austin, Texas 78712
1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737)
Get Directions