Pathophysiology: A soft-tissue sarcoma is a form of sarcoma that develops in connective tissue, though the term is sometimes applied to elements of the soft tissue that are not currently considered connective tissue.
Symptoms: In their early stages, soft-tissue sarcomas usually do not cause symptoms. Because soft tissue is relatively elastic, tumors can grow rather large, pushing aside normal tissue, before they are felt or cause any problems. The first noticeable symptom is usually a painless lump or swelling. As the tumor grows, it may cause other symptoms, such as pain or soreness, as it presses against nearby nerves and muscles.
Treatment: The stage of the sarcoma is based on the size and grade of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body (metastasized). Treatment options for soft-tissue sarcomas include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Surgery is the most common treatment for soft-tissue sarcomas. It is important to obtain a margin free of tumor to decrease the likelihood of local recurrence and give the best chance for eradication of the tumor.
Statistics: Trends in incidence and survival from soft tissue sarcomas (STS) were analysed for the period 1974-1994 using data from the Cancer Registry of the Swiss canton of Vaud. A total of 645 cases were registered. The most common histotypes were fibrosarcoma (0.82/100,000 males, 0.86/100,000 females, world standard, 1990-1994), leiomyosarcoma (0.90/100,000 males, 1.28/100,000 females, 1990-1994), and Kaposi's sarcoma (3.10/100,000 males in 1990-1994). Overall incidence rates for STS increased from 2.68/100,000 males in 1974-1979 to 6.86 in 1990-1994, and from 3.61 to 4.27 in females. However, after excluding Kaposi's sarcoma, no consistent trend over time was observed, peak rates (approximately 4.40/100,000) being registered in the late 1980s for both sexes, with some levelling off thereafter. Five-year relative survival was 17% for Kaposi's sarcomas, and 51% for other STS (all STSs, 45%). These data indicate that there has been no major new risk factor for STS of such a relevance to modify appreciably the overall rates on a population level, except from the impact of the AIDS epidemic for Kaposi's sarcoma.