A soft tissue tumor is a benign or, rarely, malignant growth of the soft tissue. Soft tissue tumors are named according to where they occur and whether they are benign or malignant. Diagnosis and treatment require competent medical attention and are often carried out in specialized centers.
What is soft tissue tumor?
A soft tissue tumor is a growth that arises from soft tissue. The most important soft tissues are connective tissue, adipose tissue, muscle tissue and nerve tissue.
The soft tissue tumors are named after where they occur, for example as fibroma in connective tissue and neurofibroma in nerve tissue. For horseshoe kidney meanings, please visit whicheverhealth.com.
Malignant soft tissue tumors, which are called soft tissue sarcomas, i.e. soft tissue cancer, are very rare at only 2%; for example fibrosarcoma or neurofibrosarcoma. Sarcomas usually develop in the legs, from where they spread through the blood vessels to other parts of the body and organs and form secondary tumors ( metastases ). However, they can also occur in other parts of the body.
The causes of soft tissue tumors have not yet been scientifically clarified. Today, contact with toxins such as asbestos, dioxin or polyvinyl chloride is assumed to be a risk factor for soft tissue sarcomas. An increasing incidence of malignant soft tissue tumors in adults who received radiation therapy to combat other cancers in their childhood has been demonstrated.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Soft tissue tumors can be benign or malignant. If symptoms of the benign tumors occur, they are only present in the form of a slight swelling. In unfavorable cases, this leads to a slight disturbance in the musculoskeletal system. Joints can then no longer be stretched as usual, for example.
A malignant soft tissue sarcoma occurs in most cases on the arms or legs. It is rarely found in the abdomen or throat. Initially there are no complaints. Only after some time do patients notice an unusual swelling. If pain then develops, it is often due to the tumor exerting pressure on neighboring nerves and bones.
If a malignant soft-tissue tumor near a joint reaches a large size, it can seriously interfere with arm and leg movements. A normal everyday life is then hardly possible. The sarcoma causes some other signs that are known from infections. Those affected complain about frequent tiredness, permanent phases of lack of concentration and a general drop in performance.
The skin also indicates a disease: it is strangely pale ]. Many patients lose weight within a short period of time without changing their lifestyle. In some cases, the lungs are also affected at the time of diagnosis. Shortness of breath and coughing then accompany everyday life.
Diagnosis & History
Both types of soft tissue tumor initially manifest themselves as a painless swelling, which is often misinterpreted as a bruise by those affected. The benign soft-tissue tumor does not cause any other symptoms; only when the sarcoma spreads do additional symptoms such as pain, restricted movement of the affected body parts and a poor general condition with uncontrollable weight loss, tiredness and paleness appear.
Patients with persistent and rapidly growing swellings should see a doctor. This will initiate an ultrasound to differentiate between benign and malignant soft tissue tumors. MRI or CT can be used to determine whether metastases have already formed. A biopsy is also necessary to determine the aggressiveness of the sarcoma and thus whether it can be treated.
Patients can find out the likelihood of sarcoma themselves by observing the following features:
Rapid growth of the tumor, pain, unintentional weight loss and night sweats. Displaceability is also clear: while benign soft tissue tumors can be displaced under the skin, sarcomas are rigid.
The course and prognosis of a sarcoma depend on its size and location and the metastases that have already formed. If the cancer has been completely removed, the prognosis is good, but regular check-ups are essential.
With appropriate treatment, a benign soft tissue tumor usually takes a positive course and does not result in any major symptoms. Complications can arise as the tumor spreads and presses on nearby structures. Pressure on blood and lymph vessels, for example, can cause swelling in the tissue, while stress on nerves or periosteum is associated with severe pain.
Metastasis can also be associated with a physical and mental decline. In the course of the disease, weight loss, fever and other general symptoms then occur, for example, which carry the risk of serious complications. A malignant soft tissue tumor often takes a negative course and, in the worst case, leads to death.
A biopsy used to diagnose a tumor can cause complications such as bleeding, injury, and infection. In the case of a malignant tumor, there is a low risk that cancer cells will be carried over when the tissue is removed. In the case of treatment with radiation or chemotherapy, late effects such as damage to the mucous membrane, hair loss and permanent damage to the gastrointestinal tract cannot be ruled out.
In the course of an operation, tissue structures are injured in individual cases or an infection occurs. Prescribed medicines can cause the usual side effects. Permanent organ damage is conceivable if taken for a longer period of time.
When should you go to the doctor?
Consultation with a doctor is indicated as soon as the affected person notices swelling, ulcers or any unusual changes in the body. If there are irregularities in locomotion, joint activity or bone structure, a doctor’s visit is necessary. Impairments of the functional abilities in the organism must always be examined and treated. Therefore, an inspection visit must be initiated if diffuse irregularities are noticed in the everyday process. A general malaise, an inner weakness and a feeling of illness also indicate disorders in the human organism.
If the affected person suffers from pain, sensitivity to pressure effects on the skin and changes in the complexion, he should consult a doctor. A pale appearance is characteristic of an existing disease. It should be taken as a warning sign. In the event of an increase in existing irregularities or the spread of symptoms, it is generally advisable to consult a doctor. If the physical resilience decreases, there is a disturbance in attention or concentration and if the sleep rhythm is disturbed, the person concerned needs a doctor.
A doctor’s visit should also be made in the event of fatigue, exhaustion and a tendency to tire quickly. If there is a sudden loss of health or if the person concerned notices a gradual decrease in their performance, there is a need for action. Loss of zest for life is another sign that should be looked into.
Treatment & Therapy
Benign soft -tissue tumors do not require treatment and only need to be surgically removed if there is pain or perceived discomfort by the person affected.
Patients with sarcomas are treated in specialized centers, where the best possible therapy for the patient and the progression of the disease is determined. The treatment depends on the type of soft tissue tumor: operable, inoperable or already metastatic?
As the name suggests, operable sarcomas are surgically removed as completely as possible. Radiation is then given or, ideally, during the operation. This requires a special radiation device that not every center can produce.
If the tumor is inoperable due to its size, the therapists try to shrink the sarcoma with preoperative therapy in the form of radiation, chemotherapy or isolated hyperthermic extremity perfusion (ILS). In ILS, the doctor flushes the affected body part with a heated treatment solution. If the sarcoma has become operable through this preoperative therapy, the therapy is based on the guidelines for operable sarcomas.
Advanced soft tissue tumors that have already metastasized require chemotherapy. After this it is possible in some cases to surgically remove the tumor and metastases. However, if the sarcoma was diagnosed very late and the cancer is very advanced, chemotherapy or radiation can only improve the symptoms, and a cure must be considered very unlikely.
Since no clear causes of soft tissue tumors are known, only general preventive measures can be recommended. This includes avoiding contact with cancer-causing toxins and reducing exposure to radiation. It is also important to have regular examinations of existing tumors and to discuss any changes in size with the doctor treating you.
Aftercare follows the medical treatment of the soft tissue tumor. The focus is on the early detection and treatment of a recurrence of the cancer. Doctors speak of a recurrence. At the same time, the follow-up treatment serves to treat and alleviate concomitant diseases or undesirable after-effects of the tumor therapy. It is not uncommon for those affected to also suffer from the psychological and social consequences of cancer.
Follow-up care helps them to cope with the respective problems. The regular check-ups are an important focus. They are carried out at certain time intervals. These follow-up examinations are also important if the soft tissue tumor cannot be completely healed.
In this way, the doctor receives the necessary information about the course of the therapy. The examination measures are carried out in a tumor center that specializes in diseases of this type, or by an oncologist. The follow-up examinations normally take place every three months, regardless of the symptoms.
If a recurrence occurs, it can be detected and treated in good time through the examinations. The way in which the check-ups are carried out depends on the individual situation of the patient. The severity of the soft tissue tumor also plays a role in its diagnosis. As part of the aftercare, the doctor carries out a physical examination or an ultrasound examination or magnetic resonance imaging. X-rays may also be required.
You can do that yourself
In the case of a soft tissue tumor, the options for self-help are severely limited. In order to alleviate the symptoms, cooperation with a doctor is unavoidable. The doctor’s instructions must be strictly followed to avoid complications. Changes or abnormalities must be discussed with him immediately.
In everyday life, the consumption of harmful substances should be avoided completely. Nicotine damages the organism considerably and should therefore be avoided. Situations of physical overexertion or stress are also to be avoided in everyday life. Studies have shown that mental toughness is helpful in managing the disease. It is therefore important to ensure that, despite all developments, there is space and time for a stabilization of well-being and a positive use of leisure time. Sick people often experience increased fatigue. It is advisable to check your sleep hygiene and optimize it if necessary. A restful sleep is important in the recovery process and in dealing with the health circumstances.
The range of motion should also be tailored to physical needs. Sporting activities or the execution of professional activities are to be checked. Tips and advice from a physiotherapist can help you to perform your daily tasks in the best possible way. Nevertheless, the help of relatives or people in the social environment should be taken up.