Pacific Cancer Programs

Muscle Cancer (Soft Tissue Sarcoma)

Sarcoma muscle cancer is a rare type of cancer that is more commonly found in children than in adults. It is so rare in adults that it only accounts for about 2 percent of all adult cancers. However, it is among the top 5 most common forms of cancer found in children. There are around 9,800 new incidences of sarcoma muscle cancer diagnosed in the United States each year. This is an extremely malignant cancer that affects the connective tissues in the body.

It is estimated that about 55 – 60% of all sarcoma muscle cancers develop in either the arms or the legs. Another 15 – 25% will begin in the trunk muscles while only about 8% affect the muscles in the neck area. There are actually two types of muscles found in the body. These are the skeletal muscles that are attached to the bones and the smooth muscles that are found in internal organs like the stomach, intestines or heart as well as the linings of the blood vessels.

When sarcoma muscle cancer is found on the smooth or internal muscles of the body the tumors are referred to as Leiomyosarmomas. This type of sarcoma muscle cancer can be found anywhere in the body that contains smooth muscle tissue, but it usually affects the gastrointestinal tract, uterus or blood vessel linings in adults. A malignant tumor found on skeletal or connective muscle tissue is called a Rhabdomyosarcoma. This type is usually found on the arms or legs, head and neck area as well as the reproductive organs like the bladder or vagina. These types of tumors are found in 50% or more of the cases involving children with this type of cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

The first sign of this type of cancer is a painless lump or swelling which will later begin to become painful as it grows and presses on a nearby nerve. Since it grows in soft tissue the tumor may become quite large before it is detected because of the lack of pain.

Acknowledgment: This text is adapted from iHealth: Healthcare Information Directory.


General Information

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

NCI has up-to-date information for patients and practitioners about muscle cancer.

American Cancer Society (ACS)

ACS has extensive information for all aspects of muscle cancer.

Printed Materials to Download

American Cancer Society - Uterine Sarcoma

Uterine sarcoma is a cancer of the muscle and supporting tissues of the uterus (womb).

National Cancer Society - Soft Tissue Sarcoma Factsheet

This 4 page factsheet contains information about soft tissue sarcoma from NCI.

CancerCare - Sarcoma Treatment Update

The information in this booklet is based on the CancerCare Connect® Education Workshop "Treatment Update on Sarcoma."

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