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Cancer Health Center

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


Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.

The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if soft tissue sarcoma spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are soft tissue sarcoma cells. The disease is metastatic soft tissue sarcoma, not lung cancer.

One method used to stage childhood soft tissue sarcoma is based on how much cancer remains after surgery to remove the tumor and whether the cancer has spread:

Nonmetastatic childhood soft tissue sarcoma

In nonmetastatic childhood soft tissue sarcoma, the cancer has been partly or completely removed by surgery and has not spread to other parts of the body.

  • Group I: The tumor has been completely removed by surgery.
  • Group II: After surgery to remove the tumor, cancer cells remain that can only be seen with a microscope at the edge of the tissue removed and/or in nearby lymph nodes.
  • Group III: After surgery or biopsy, there is tumor remaining that has not spread but can be seen with the eye.

Metastatic childhood soft tissue sarcoma

  • Group IV: The cancer has metastasized (spread from where it started to other parts of the body).

Another method used to stage childhood soft tissue sarcoma is based on the size of the tumor and whether cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

This staging system is based on the following:

  • The size of the tumor.
  • Whether the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body.
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