How are soft tissue sarcomas treated?
General treatment information
Experts recommend that patients with sarcoma have a health care team made up of doctors from different specialties, such as:
- An orthopedic surgeon: a surgeon who specializes in diseases of the bones, muscles, and joints (for sarcomas of the arms and legs)
- A surgical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with surgery (for sarcomas of the abdomen and retroperitoneum [the back of the abdomen])
- A thoracic surgeon: a doctor who treats diseases of the lungs and chest with surgery (for sarcomas in the chest)
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy
- A physiatrist (or rehabilitation doctor): a doctor who treat injuries or illnesses that affect how you move
Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, physical therapists, and other health professionals.
After a sarcoma is found and staged, your team will recommend one or several treatment options. This decision is important, so take time and think about all of the choices. In choosing a treatment plan, factors to consider include the type, location, and stage of the cancer, as well as your overall physical health.
The main types of treatment for soft tissue sarcoma are:
It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section What should you ask your doctor about soft tissue sarcomas? It also is often a good idea to seek a second opinion. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel more confident about the chosen treatment plan. Some insurance companies require a second opinion before they will agree to pay for treatments.
Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases, they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. You can also call our clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 for a list of studies that meet your medical needs, or see the Clinical Trials section on our website to learn more.
Considering complementary and alternative methods
You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.
Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.
Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See the Complementary and Alternative Medicine section of our website to learn more.
Help getting through cancer treatment
Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists on call 24 hours a day, every day.
Last Medical Review: 12/29/2014
Last Revised: 02/09/2016