Signs and Symptoms of Soft Tissue Sarcomas

About half of soft tissue sarcomas start in an arm or leg. Most people notice a lump that's grown over time (weeks to months). The lump may or may not hurt.

When sarcomas grow in the back of the abdomen (the retroperitoneum), the symptoms often come from other problems the tumor is causing. For instance, they may cause blockage or bleeding of the stomach or bowels. They can press on nerves, blood vessels, or nearby organs. They can grow large enough for the tumor to be felt in the belly. Sometimes the tumors cause pain. About 4 of 10 sarcomas begin in the abdomen (belly).

In rare cases, sarcomas can start in the chest or in the head or neck. .

If you have any of the these problems, see a doctor right away:

  • A new lump or a lump that's growing (anywhere on your body)
  • Abdominal pain that's getting worse
  • Blood in your stool or vomit
  • Black, tarry stools (when bleeding happens in the stomach or bowels, the blood can turn black as it's digested, and it might make the stool very black and sticky)

These symptoms are more often caused by things other than sarcoma, but they still need to be checked out by a doctor.

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American Society of Clinical Oncology. Sarcoma, Soft Tissue: Symptoms and Signs. 08/2017. Accessed at www.cancer.net/cancer-types/sarcoma-soft-tissue/symptoms-and-signs on March 29, 2018.

Helman LJ, Maki RG. Sarcomas of soft tissue. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE. Abeloff‘s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier: 2014: 1753-1791.

National Cancer Institute. Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. May 15, 2017. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/soft-tissue-sarcoma/patient/adult-soft-tissue-treatment-pdq on March 29, 2018.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Version 1.2018 -- October 31, 2017. Accessed at www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/sarcoma.pdf on March 29, 2018.

Singer S, Maki R, O’Sullivan B. Soft tissue sarcoma In: DeVita VT, Heilman S, Rosenberg SA, eds. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011:1533-1577.

Villalobos VM, Byfield SD, Ghate SR, Adejoro O. A retrospective cohort study of treatment patterns among patients with metastatic soft tissue sarcoma in the US. Clin Sarcoma Res. 2017 Nov 9;7:18.  

Last Medical Review: April 6, 2018 Last Revised: April 6, 2018

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