Tumors of the soft or connective tissue can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). Connective tissue, found throughout the body, consists of nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, bone, lining of the joints (synovial tissue), and fat. They can develop anywhere in the body, but tend to be most common in the long bones of the arms and legs, or the abdomen and pelvis.
The behavior of connective tissue tumors depends on several factors, such as the type, location, and whether it is caused by an underlying condition. Benign tumors of this kind tend to be more common in the soft tissue than in bone, although sarcomas of the soft tissue and bone are generally very rare.
Most Common Types of Soft Tissue Tumors
Although benign tumors do not indicate cancer, some can exhibit aggressive growth and reach a larger size, which can put pressure on neighboring nerves and blood vessels. Soft tissue tumor treatment depends on the behavior and pathology of the tumor, and an orthopedic oncologist may suggest surgery to remove them. Sarcomas can affect both children and adults. Because connective tissue tumors tend to develop in the arms and legs, especially in younger children and adolescents, limb preservation is a primary consideration during treatment.
There are many subtypes of both benign and malignant soft tissue sarcoma. The most common benign soft tissue tumors are:
Lipoma – most common benign connective tissue tumor. They develop in the fat tissue as a soft mass just below the skin. Lipomas are slow growing and generally do not present additional symptoms or require treatment, unless they become painful or continue to grow, at which point they should be evaluated.
Angiolipoma – like lipomas, this benign tumor develops in adipose (fatty) tissue with vascular structures (blood vessels). They are most common in the arms, and many people experience multiple angiolipomas. As many as 5% of cases are hereditary. They can be removed with surgery if treatment is necessary.
Fibroma – This type of tumor (also known as a fibroid or fibroid tumor) is made up of connective tissue and can develop anywhere in the body. Benign ovarian fibroids are among the most common and well known type of fibroma. They can occur at any age, but are most common in middle age. Most fibroids are asymptomatic and are usually detected during routine pelvic and gynecological exams. Treatment is usually not necessary as they are usually benign, but if they become too large or cause pressure or pain, they may be surgically removed.
Benign fibrous histiocytoma – This is a slow growing benign tumor with little to no symptoms. It is most commonly found deep in the tissue layers where it develops, usually in the legs. They can also grow in the head, neck, torso, pelvis, abdomen, kidneys, or trachea. Anyone can develop a benign fibrous histiocytoma, but they are most common in older men.
Neurofibroma – Neurofibroma tumors form on nerve tissue and can develop anywhere in the nervous system. While they are usually benign, this type of tumor may rarely turn malignant. Common in childhood, treatment may include surgery if soft tissue tumors become painful or put pressure on a nerve.
Schwannoma – Schwannomas are also benign nerve sheath tumors. The nerve sheath is the protective outer layer of a nerve which helps to transmit signals between the brain and the peripheral nervous system. They are very rare, and usually asymptomatic. A small percentage of nerve sheath tumors can be malignant (neurofibroma).
Hemangioma – Hemangioma is a benign growth of excess blood vessels that affects infants. The growth appears as a red birthmark on the face, as well as the scalp, neck, and back. Treatment is often not necessary, but surgery may be required for severe pain that does not respond to surgical treatment.
Giant cell tendon sheath (also known as giant-cell synovioma) – Benign tumors that typically develop on the hands, wrists, and fingers. If treatment is necessary they are usually removed with surgery, but recurrence can occur. They tend to affect men and women between the ages of 20 – 50.
Soft Tissue Sarcoma Diagnosis and Treatment in Los Angeles
Although most soft tissue tumors are benign, some may rarely represent a malignancy. Any new lumps or growths should be examined by a tumor specialist for an adequate diagnosis, which typically consists of a physical examination, MRI, and in some cases biopsy. cancer.gov talks more about soft tissue tumors.
Contact an Orthopedic Oncologist and Sarcoma Specialist in Los Angeles
Soft tissue sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that affects less than 1% of the population, which makes it essential to find an oncologist with experience and a successful track record of diagnosing and treating this form of cancer in both children and adults. For more information on the diagnosis and treatment options for benign and malignant soft tissue tumors, contact the office of Dr. Daniel C. Allison in Los Angeles by calling 310-730-8008 to schedule an appointment today.
Next, read about Pleomorphic Sarcoma.