What Are the Treatments for Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on February 15, 2022

Often, doctors recommend soft tissue sarcoma treatment based on the stage of the cancer. That’s how large the tumor is and how far it has spread in your body. But there are other things they think about, too, such as your age, overall health, where the tumor is, side effects you might have, and how you’d like treatment to go.

No matter the stage of your cancer, you can work with your doctor to decide on the treatment plan that’s best for you.

Doctors usually remove these tumors with surgery. The goal is to take out all of the tumor and a rim of the healthy tissue around it. That’s the best way to make sure there are no cancer cells left behind once the tumor is gone.

If your tumor is in your arm or leg, surgery may be the only treatment you need.

If the tumor is in another area of your body, your doctor may suggest radiation with or without chemotherapy before your operation. That can help shrink the tumor so it’s easier to remove.

You may also need radiation after the tumor is out. It might help lower the chance that the cancer will come back in that area.

These tumors tend to grow and spread faster than stage I, but surgery is still the main way to treat them. If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, your doctor will remove them along with the tumor. Sometimes surgery is the only treatment you’ll need for soft tissue sarcoma in these stages.

If your tumor is big, or it's in a place that makes it hard to take out, your doctor may recommend radiation with or without chemotherapy before an operation to try to shrink it. This might make it easier to take out all of the cancer. You may have these treatments after surgery, too, to lower the chance that the disease will come back.

Your doctor can take out small tumors and then use radiation to help keep them from coming back in the same place.

You might have radiation with or without chemotherapy if you’re not well enough to have surgery or if the tumor is in a place that makes it impossible to remove.

It’s rare, but when a tumor in an arm or leg is very large and involves major nerves and blood vessels nearby, doctors may need to amputate the limb to control your cancer.

At this stage, the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Your doctor may do surgery to remove the main tumor and any others that have grown.

You may get chemotherapy with or without radiation to shrink the tumors before surgery.

Or you may get them after surgery to try to kill any cancer cells that may be left in your body.

If your doctor can’t remove all of your tumors, radiation, chemotherapy, or both together might ease any problems the tumors cause, such as pain. You might also take targeted therapy drugs along with the chemotherapy. These medicines attack specific parts of cancer cells to shrink tumors or stop them from growing.

Show Sources


American Society of Clinical Oncology: “Sarcoma, Soft Tissue: Treatment Options.”

National Cancer Institute: “Adult Soft Tissue Sarcoma Treatment (PDQ) -- Patient Version.”

American Cancer Society: “Cancer Staging,” “How Are Soft Tissue Sarcomas Staged?”

National Comprehensive Cancer Network: “NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Version 1.2018 --October 31, 2017.”

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