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Soft Tissue Tumors

What are Soft Tissue Tumors?

Soft tissue tumors are characterized by abnormal tissue growth, which can occur in muscles and tendons, fat tissue, synovial tissue, blood vessels, lymph vessels, or peripheral nerves.

These tumors can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). There are certain cancerous lesions which may become cancerous over time.

What are the symptoms of Soft Tissue Tumors?

Patients with soft tissue tumours may experience various symptoms – or no symptoms at all. Even in cancerous tumors, symptoms may not be present in the early stages. A few of the signs and symptoms of soft tissue tumours may include:

  • A lump that increases in size over time
  • Swelling and tenderness around the lesion
  • Changes in the overlying skin
  • Decreased range of motion of the joint or less functional limb
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite or unintended loss of weight

It is advisable to get these signs and symptoms checked by a specialist orthopedic surgeon. In the best-case scenario, something turns out to be harmless and reassurance can be provided.

If there is any suspicion for something more sinister, it is best to know about it early as certain treatment options depend on early diagnosis.

How are Soft Tissue Tumors diagnosed?

Establishing the correct diagnosis is paramount in musculoskeletal oncology. If the initial diagnosis is wrong, inadequate decisions in further management of the disease and treatment will follow.

Cancers of the soft tissues (soft tissue sarcomas) are not very common. A high clinical suspicion by the healthcare professional is necessary to detect these rare malignancies.

Establishing the diagnosis might involve various steps such as:

  • Taking the patient’s medical history
  • Having a thorough physical examination
  • Using various imaging modalities
  • Blood tests
  • Taking tissue samples from the tumor (biopsy)

A few types of soft tissue sarcoma are inheritable. Your doctor will inform you if genetic counseling might be advisable.

For early detection, it is highly recommended to get an expert opinion from a specialized orthopedic surgeon with expertise and experience in orthopedic oncology.

How are Soft Tissue Tumors treated?

For non-cancerous tumors:

  • Often do not need surgery
  • Close monitoring by the orthopedic oncologist may be needed
  • Medicine may be prescribed

For cancerous tumors:

  • Interdisciplinary meetings (tumor boards) to discuss individual cases in order to offer personalized options
  • Not only treated by an orthopedic surgeon but will be attended to by doctors from various disciplines

Treatment options depend on:

  • Type and grade of the tumor
  • Size and location of the lesion
  • Extent of the tumor burden (stage)

Treatment options may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Surgery

A combined approach of these options is often used to achieve the best-possible outcome.

Reviewed by Dr. Gurpal Singh, Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Centre for Orthopaedics and Hip and Knee Surgery

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