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Childhood Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Stages of Childhood Soft Tissue Sarcoma

After childhood soft tissue sarcoma has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the soft tissue or to other parts of the body is called staging. There is no standard staging system for childhood soft tissue sarcoma. Two methods that are commonly used for staging are based on the following:

  • Amount of tumor remaining after surgery to remove the tumor; and/or
  • Grade and size of the tumor; and
  • Whether the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment.

The following procedure may be used in the staging process:

  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy: A sentinel lymph node biopsy is done to check if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The sentinel lymph node is removed during surgery. The sentinel lymph node is the first lymph node to receive lymphatic drainage from a tumor. It is the first lymph node the cancer is likely to spread to from the tumor. A small amount of a radioactive substance and/or blue dye is injected near the tumor. The radioactive substance or dye flows through the lymph ducts to the lymph nodes. The first lymph node to receive the substance or dye is removed. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are not found, it may not be necessary to remove more lymph nodes. This procedure is used for epithelioid and clear cell sarcoma.

The results of tests and procedures and the initial surgery are used to find out the stage of the soft tissue sarcoma.

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.
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