Soft tissue sarcomas: Teenagers and young adults


Soft tissue sarcomas are a rare type of cancer that occur in the soft tissues of the body such as muscles, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons, and joint linings. These cancers can be found in both adults and teenagers. Soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults usually affect the arms and legs and can be characterized by a lump or mass that is not associated with any trauma or injury. Common symptoms associated with soft tissue sarcomas can include pain, swelling, redness, tenderness, and lumps. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and/or immunotherapy depending on the size, stage, and grade of the cancer. It is important for parents, teens, and young adults to be aware of the signs and symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas, and to be sure to alert their healthcare provider if anything concerning is noticed.


Common symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults include:

  • Unexplained lump or swelling in the neck, shoulder, back, abdomen, or near a joint
  • Pain or tenderness in the affected area
  • Weight loss
  • General malaise
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Numbness or tingling in the affected area
  • Limited range of motion in the affected area
  • Skin discoloration or ulceration in the affected area


The exact cause of soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults is unknown. However, certain risk factors have been identified, such as previous exposure to radiation, certain inherited syndromes, and certain genetic mutations. Additionally, certain types of soft tissue sarcomas, such as synovial sarcoma, are more common in young adults.

Risk factors

The exact cause of soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults is unknown. However, certain factors may increase the risk of developing these types of tumors. These risk factors include:

  1. Previous radiation therapy, including radiation used to treat other cancers
  2. Certain genetic conditions, including Li Fraumeni syndrome, Rothmund-Thomson syndrome, and Retinoblastoma
  3. Exposure to certain environmental pollutants and toxins, including industrial solvents, dioxin, and vinyl chloride
  4. Having a family history of soft tissue sarcomas
  5. Having a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or medication
  6. Being overweight or obese
  7. A diet that is lacking in fruits and vegetables
  8. Excessive sun exposure, particularly for those with fair skin


Soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults are typically diagnosed through a physical exam and imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT, MRI, and PET scans. If the diagnosis is inconclusive after these tests, a biopsy may be performed to get a more accurate view of the tumor. The biopsy can also provide information on the type of soft tissue sarcoma, which will be needed to determine the best course of treatment.


Soft tissue sarcomas are a group of rare and diverse cancerous tumors that develop in the body’s soft tissue, such as muscle, fat, and connective tissue. While the overall incidence of these tumors is relatively low in the general population, they are more commonly found in teenagers and young adults. The following are the various subtypes of Soft tissue sarcomas commonly seen in this age group:

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma: A malignant tumor that develops in the muscle cells, typically found in the head and neck area.
  • Synovial sarcoma: A rare type of sarcoma that forms in the soft tissue adjacent to joints.
  • Ewing’s Sarcoma: A malignant tumor of the bones and soft tissues, typically found in the limbs and chest wall.
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma (MFH): MFH is a rare, rapidly-growing type of sarcoma that can occur at any age in the soft tissue.
  • Angiosarcoma: A rare malignant tumor of the upper-inner thigh, buttocks, or back of the arms that affects the lining of the blood vessels.
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans: A low-grade form of sarcoma that starts in the superficial layer of skin and grows slowly.
  • Liposarcoma: A rare form of cancer that develops in the fat cells and can be divided into four subtypes.
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor: A cancerous tumor that develops in the cells that make up the protective sheath of the peripheral nerves.


The treatment of soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults will depend on a variety of factors, such as the specific type of sarcoma, the size and location of the tumor, and the patient’s age, overall health, and preferences. In general, common treatments for soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults may include:

  1. Surgery: Surgery is often the primary treatment for soft tissue sarcomas, used to remove the cancerous tumor as well as some surrounding healthy tissue. This can help prevent the cancer from spreading.
  2. Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy works by targeting the cancer cells with high energy x-rays, which can help to reduce the size of the cancer and limit its spread.
  3. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning it works to target the cancer cells throughout the body. It can often be used alongside other treatments to help improve outcomes.
  4. Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs to target specific molecules that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  5. Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy works by stimulating the patient’s own immune system to help fight the cancer cells.
  6. Clinical trials: Clinical trials are research studies done with human participants to investigate new or existing treatments. Taking part in a trial can offer access to the most up-to-date treatments, and can have a positive impact on health outcomes.

Regardless of the treatment plan chosen, it is important to consult with a specialist who can help to determine the best course of action for each individual patient.


Soft tissue sarcomas are rare, but they can have a significant and negative impact on the lives of teenagers and young adults. To reduce the risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas, it is recommended that teens and young adults stay up to date on their vaccinations, practice sun safety, and maintain a healthy weight. Additionally, teens and young adults should limit their alcohol intake and avoid smoking, as these activities can increase the risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas. Additionally, teens and young adults should minimize their exposure to radiation and other environmental carcinogens. Finally, teens and young adults should practice regular self-examinations to be aware of any changes in the size, shape or appearance of any moles or other skin lesions, as well as any changes or developments in the soft tissues of the body.

Gender differences?

Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults. In general, females tend to have better outcomes for soft tissue sarcomas than males, with higher rates of long-term survival. In addition, female patients tend to have less aggressive tumor behavior and more indolent clinical courses. Males may have larger tumors, which can lead to increased risk of more advanced stage disease and poorer outcomes. When it comes to presenting symptoms, males tend to have pain more often than females. Treatment may also differ by gender, as females are more likely to be treated with surgery only, while males may receive more chemotherapy and radiation. Furthermore, soft tissue sarcomas in female adolescents and young adults tend to be located in the extremities or trunk, whereas male patients may have them located in the head and neck region.


Nutrition plays an important role in the management of soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults. Eating a nutritious and balanced diet can help the patient maintain their health and fight cancer. Eating a variety of foods with adequate calories, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals can help maintain strength and energy levels. It is also important to make sure the patient gets enough fluids and fiber to prevent constipation. Foods high in fiber such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables should be included as part of a healthy diet. Additionally, it is important to avoid processed meats, red meats, and fried foods, as these have been associated with a higher risk of developing cancer. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is also beneficial, as these foods are high in antioxidants which help fight cancer. Finally, it is important to reduce or eliminate alcohol and tobacco, as smoking and drinking can increase the risk of cancer.

Physical Activity

Physical activity can affect Soft tissue sarcomas in teenagers and young adults in a number of ways. For instance, physical activity can increase the circulation of blood flow to the affected area, which can help to decrease inflammation or swelling associated with Soft tissue sarcomas. Additionally, regular physical activity can help to promote healthy body weight, which can help to reduce the risk of developing certain types of Soft tissue sarcomas. Physical activity can also help to boost the immune system, which can help to prevent cancerous cell growth. Finally, certain physical activities like yoga can be specifically beneficial for teens and young adults who have Soft tissue sarcomas by helping to reduce stress, which can have a positive effect on overall health and well-being.

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