Soft Tissue Cancer Health Center

Sarcomas are malignant (cancerous) tumors that develop in tissues which connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body. Muscles, tendons (bands of fiber that connect muscles to bones), fibrous tissues, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and synovial tissues are types of soft tissue. Soft tissue sarcomas are grouped together because they share certain microscopic characteristics, have similar symptoms, and are generally treated in similar ways. They are usually named for the type of tissue in which they begin.

Examples of soft tissue sarcomas and the type of tissue in which they begin include the following:

  • Fibrous tissue (tissue that holds bones, muscles, and organs in place)—fibrosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma
  • Fatty tissue—liposarcoma
  • Smooth muscle (e.g., uterus)—leiomyosarcoma
  • Skeletal muscle—rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Blood and lymph vessels—epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, angiosarcoma,lymphangiosarcoma, Kaposi sarcoma
  • Perivascular tissue (near or around blood vessels)—glomangiosarcoma, malignanthemangiopericytoma
  • Synovial tissue (tissue that lines joints, tendon sheaths, and fluid-filled sacs between tendons and bones)—synovial sarcoma
  • Peripheral nerves—malignant granular cell tumor, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (also called malignant schwannoma or neurofibrosarcoma)
  • Mesenchymal cells (cells that develop into connective tissue, blood vessels, and lymphatic tissue)—gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), malignant mesenchymoma
Review Date: 
March 27, 2012
Last Updated:
June 28, 2013