Atrium Health Navicent Specialty Center

Bone and Soft Tissue

Doctor shows a woman some X-ray results

Sarcoma's Cancer

Sarcoma cancer is a type of cancer that develops from certain tissues, like bone or muscle. Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are the main types of sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas can develop from soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. They can be found in any part of the body. Most of them develop in the arms or legs.

Treatments offered: Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy

Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors: Types, Treatment, and Management

Also referred to as musculoskeletal tumor surgery, orthopedic oncology is an orthopedics subspecialty that involves the clinical evaluation and management of musculoskeletal system tumors. The management of musculoskeletal tumors will vary depending on the tumor type. Many benign tumors simply need monitoring and do not require any form of surgery. Others may be handled by a simple excision, while the more complicated malignant tumors will require advanced surgery.

Types of Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors

Malignant bone and soft tissue tumors commonly referred to as sarcomas, require more surgery as well as reconstruction, and may at times require additional chemotherapy or radiation. In the case of metastatic bone disease, the surgery goal is relieving the pain and preventing bone breakage. This can be achieved through radiation alone while at other times it may require surgery.

There are lots of different bone and soft tissue tumors. However, not all are cancerous and sarcomas are, for example, rare tumors. The majority of cancers are the ones known as carcinomas. Whenever you see the term sarcoma being part of the disease name, it means the tumor is cancerous (malignant).

Some bone and soft tissue tumors behave in a manner that lies in between a non-cancer and actual cancer. These are referred to as intermediate; they could grow, regress, or remain stable.

Bone Tumors

Cancer is generally defined as when body cells change and begin growing out of control. The human body is composed of tiny building blocks known as cells. Normal body cells grow when they are needed by your body, and they die when no longer needed by the body. In the majority of cancers, cells growing abnormally form a mass or lump called a tumor. If cancerous cells are in your body for long, they may invade nearby areas. They could even spread to other body parts (metastasis).

Primary Bone Cancer

A bone tumor is an abnormal cells growth within the bone that could be either benign or malignant. In the majority of cases, a malignant or cancerous bone tumor happens when the cancer has spread from another body part. Among the most common types of cancers that could spread to the bone include:

  • Breast
  • Prostate
  • Lung
  • Kidney
  • Thyroid

Primary bone cancer is the type that begins within your bones, at times simply called bone cancer. These types of primary bone cancers are known as sarcomas, and can grow from your bone, fibrous tissue, muscle, cartilage, nerve tissue, or fatty tissue. This cancer differs from metastatic or secondary cancer, which begins in another body part and spreads to the bones later.

Although primary bone cancers are generally quite rare, they are more commonly seen in teens and children than in adults. Primary bone cancers may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Tumors that are benign do not spread and they are usually not life threatening. They can usually be removed through a simple surgery. On the other hand, cancerous tumors may spread and become life threatening.

Management of Bone Tumors

While benign bone tumors might not call for treatment, often physicians will want to have them periodically assessed to check for regression or progression. In several cases, it may be necessary to have surgery for tumor removal. Malignant tumor treatment and management depends on the organ or tissue involved. Commonly used methods are radiation chemotherapy or hormone therapy after surgery.

Leukemia is a different type of bone cancer, though. It typically starts in the inner, soft parts of the bones (known as bone marrow). It is nevertheless considered more of a blood cancer than a bone cancer.

Soft Tissue Tumors

Soft tissues include muscles, nerves, tendons, fat, blood vessels, and deep skin tissues. They hold our bodies together. Soft tissue sarcoma is a cancer occurring in any of these soft tissues. However, sarcomas are quite rare, representing just about 1% of all cases of cancer. There are many different types of soft tissue sarcomas. The majority of the soft tissue tumors begin in the legs or arms. Others are mostly found in the trunk area or torso.

In lesser instances, they can be found in the neck and head or within other organs such as:

  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Lung
  • Breast
  • Uterus
  • Abdominal cavity
  • Gastrointestinal tract

The primary treatment of soft-tissue sarcomas is surgery combined with chemotherapy or radiation therapy (or both).

Tumor-Like Soft Tissue Conditions

Some soft tissue conditions are caused by injury or inflammation and could form a mass resembling a tumor. However, different from a true bone and soft tissue tumor, these do not originate from a single cell that is growing abnormally. They have little capacity to spread or grow to nearby body tissues, and will never spread via your lymph system or bloodstream.


Sarcomas typically develop from the cells maintaining the body structure or cushioning other body organs. This includes bone, muscle, fat, cartilage, and tendon (fibroblasts). They may grow in any part of the body such as head and neck, the extremities, or inside the abdominal and chest cavities.

As there are over 50 different kinds of bone and soft tissue sarcomas, it is tremendously vital to seek out surgeons and doctors with experience in treating these cases, some of which are very complicated and rare. While some can be easily treated through surgery, others can be extremely aggressive, spread quickly to distant body organs.

If you notice any abnormal body growth or have questions about cancer, it is best to consult a healthcare provider. A healthcare provider is best placed to advise and help you to understand more about most types of cancers.