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Sarcoma is a cancer that forms in connective tissues, such as bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons and blood vessels. There are two main types—soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma—and more than 70 unique subtypes. Although sarcoma can potentially develop anywhere in the body, it is most commonly found in the arms and legs.

An inherent difficulty in diagnosing sarcoma is that there is no proven screening test. What’s more, early-stage sarcoma usually does not produce noticeable symptoms, and if it does, the most common sign is bone pain, which can have many causes. For instance, in a teenager, it could easily be misattributed to “growing pains.”

Early warning signs of sarcoma

In many cases, the first sign of sarcoma is a painless lump or swelling in a bone or soft tissue. Other symptoms may later develop as the condition progresses. Bone sarcomas typically present with pain. Soft sarcoma is typically painless when it starts and patients will often only develop symptoms once the tumor has reached a critical size or starts affecting other nearby structures like nerves, blood vessels or bones. 

Common symptoms of sarcoma

In addition to a lump or swelling, sarcoma can cause difficulty walking or reduced range of motion in a joint.

What does sarcoma feel like?

The sensations associated with sarcoma can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the specific subtype, location and size of the tumor. Initially, the tumor may be painless, but as it grows, it may become large enough to be felt and cause localized discomfort. Over time, the pain may become persistent and worsen.

What does sarcoma look like?

Sarcoma can cause a visible lump or swelling in a bone or soft tissue. The lump may vary in size, texture and appearance depending on the specific subtype of sarcoma and its location. Additionally, subcutaneous or superficial sarcoma may cause noticeable changes in the skin, such as discoloration or puckering.

Symptoms of advanced sarcoma

As sarcoma progresses, the symptoms typically worsen. Additionally, some patients experience:

  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Bloody or blackened stools
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about sarcoma signs and symptoms

The following FAQs-related article provided additional information about sarcoma signs and symptoms:

Benefit from world-class care at Moffitt Cancer Center

The multispecialty team in Moffitt’s acclaimed Sarcoma Program focuses exclusively on diagnosing and treating all types of sarcoma. We offer a full spectrum of treatment options, including the latest innovations in surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. We also have a robust clinical trials program, allowing our patients to be among the first to benefit from groundbreaking options that are not yet available elsewhere.

You can request an appointment with a specialist in our Sarcoma Program by calling 1-888-663-3488  or submitting a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.