Under a Soft tissue tumor one understands a benign or rarely malignant tumor of the soft tissue. A soft tissue tumor is named according to its place of occurrence and a distinction between benign and malignant. Diagnosis and treatment require competent medical care and are often carried out in specialized centers.
A Soft tissue tumor is a tumor that originates 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 their place of occurrence, for example as fibroma in connective tissue and neurofibroma in nerve tissue.
Very rare with only 2% are malignant soft tissue tumors, which are called soft tissue sarcomas, i.e. soft tissue cancer; for example fibrosarcoma or neurofibrosarcoma. Sarcomas usually arise in the legs, from where they spread via the blood vessels to other parts of the body and organs and form daughter tumors (metastases). However, they can also occur in other parts of the body.
The causes of Soft tissue tumors could not yet be scientifically clarified. Contact with toxins such as asbestos, dioxin or polyvinyl chloride is suspected as risk factors for soft tissue sarcomas. There has been evidence of an increasing incidence of malignant soft tissue tumors in adults who received radiation therapy to combat other cancers in their childhood.
Soft tissue tumors can be benign or malignant. If symptoms of the benign tumors occur, they are only 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.
Malignant soft tissue sarcoma most often affects the arms or legs. It is rarely found in the stomach or throat. Initially there are no complaints. Only after a while do patients notice an unusual swelling. If pain then develops, it is often based on the fact that the tumor is putting pressure on neighboring nerves and bones.
If a malignant soft tissue tumor in the vicinity of a joint reaches a large size, it can severely disrupt arm and leg movements. Normal everyday life is then hardly possible. The sarcoma causes some other signs that are known from infections. Those affected complain of frequent tiredness, persistent phases of lack of concentration and a general decline in performance.
The skin also indicates a disease: it is strangely pale]. Many patients lose weight in a short period of time without changing their lifestyle. In some cases, the lungs are also involved at the time of diagnosis. Shortness of breath and coughing then accompany everyday life.
Both types of Soft tissue tumors are initially expressed as a painless swelling, often misinterpreted by those affected as a bruise. The benign soft tissue tumor does not cause any further symptoms; only when the sarcoma spreads do additional symptoms such as pain, restricted mobility of the affected body parts and a poor general condition with uncontrollable weight loss, fatigue and paleness occur.
Patients with prolonged and rapidly growing swelling should see a doctor. This will initiate an ultrasound to differentiate between benign and malignant soft tissue tumors. MRI or CT may be used to determine whether metastases have already formed. A biopsy is also required to determine the aggressiveness of the sarcoma and thus its treatability.
Patients can find out the likelihood of a sarcoma on their own by observing the following features:
Rapid growth of the tumor, pain, unintentional weight loss, and night sweats. The ability to move is also clear: while benign soft tissue tumors can be moved under the skin, sarcomas are rigid.
The course and prognosis of a sarcoma depend on its size and location and on the metastases that have already formed. If the cancer has been completely removed, the prognosis is good, but regular examinations 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 if the tumor spreads and presses on nearby structures. For example, pressure on blood and lymph vessels can cause tissue swelling, while stress on nerves or periosteum is associated with severe pain.
Metastasis can also be associated with a decline in physical and mental performance. In the course of the disease, for example, weight loss, fever and other general complaints can occur that carry the risk of serious complications. A malignant soft tissue tumor more 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. With a malignant tumor, there is a low risk that cancer cells will be carried over when the tissue is removed. When treating with radiation or chemotherapy, long-term consequences 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 drugs can cause the usual side effects. Permanent organ damage is conceivable with long-term use.
A doctor should be consulted as soon as the person concerned notices swelling, ulcers or unusual changes on the body. If there are irregularities in locomotion, joint activity or bone structure, a doctor's visit is necessary. Impairments of the functional capabilities in the organism must always be examined and treated. A control visit must therefore be initiated if diffuse irregularities are perceived in the everyday process. A general malaise, an internal weakness and a feeling of illness also indicate disorders in the human organism.
If the person concerned suffers from pain, a sensitivity to the effects of pressure on the skin and changes in the skin texture, he should consult a doctor. A pale appearance is characteristic of an existing disease. It should be understood as a warning sign. In the event of an increase in existing irregularities and the spread of complaints, it is generally advisable to consult a doctor. If the physical resilience decreases, there is disturbance of attention or concentration and if the sleep rhythm is mixed up, the person concerned needs a doctor.
A doctor should also be seen in the event of fatigue, exhaustion and rapid fatigue. If there are sudden health problems or if the person concerned perceives a gradual decrease in their performance, action is required. The loss of zest for life is another sign that should be investigated.
Benign Soft tissue tumors do not require any treatment and only need to be surgically removed if the person concerned is in pain or if they feel disturbed.
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. Afterwards or, ideally, during the operation, radiation is carried out. This requires a special radiation device that not every center can present.
If the tumor is inoperable due to its size, the practitioners try to reduce the size of the sarcoma with preoperative therapy in the form of radiation, chemotherapy or isolated hyperthermic extremity perfusion (ILS). With ILS, the doctor flushes the affected body part with a heated treatment solution. If the sarcoma has become operable as a result of this preoperative therapy, the therapy is based on the guidelines for operable sarcomas.
Advanced soft tissue tumors that have already developed metastases 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; a cure must be considered very unlikely.
Since there are no clear causes of the Soft tissue tumors are known, only general measures for prevention can be recommended. This includes avoiding contact with cancer-causing toxins and reducing radiation exposure. Regular examinations of existing tumors and the discussion of changes in size with the attending physician are also important.
The medical treatment of the soft tissue tumor is followed by follow-up care. The focus is on the early detection and treatment of a recurrence of the cancer. Doctors speak of a relapse. At the same time, the follow-up treatment serves to treat and alleviate accompanying illnesses or undesirable after-effects of the tumor therapy. It is not uncommon for those affected to suffer from the psychological and social consequences of cancer.
Follow-up care helps them cope with the respective problems. The regular check-ups represent an important focus. They are perceived at certain time intervals. These follow-up exams 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 usually take place every three months, regardless of the symptoms.
If a relapse becomes apparent, the examinations can identify and treat it in good time. 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 follow-up care, the doctor will perform a physical examination or an ultrasound examination or magnetic resonance tomography. X-rays may also be required.
With a soft tissue tumor, the possibilities for self-help are very limited. Working with a doctor is inevitable to alleviate the symptoms. The instructions of the attending physician must be strictly followed to avoid complications. Changes or abnormalities must be discussed with him immediately.
The consumption of harmful substances should be completely avoided in everyday life. 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 having a mental strength helps 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 positive leisure activities. Sick people often experience increased fatigue. It is advisable to check sleep hygiene and optimize it if necessary. A good night's sleep is important in the recovery process as well as in dealing with health circumstances.
The movement possibilities should also be tailored to the physical needs. Sports activities or the execution of professional activities must be checked. Tips and advice from a physiotherapist can help you perform your daily tasks in the best possible way. Nevertheless, the help of relatives or people in the social environment should be sought.