Cancer symptoms: ‘Painless’ lump under the skin could be a sign of a ‘rare’ tumour

Cancer symptoms: ‘Painless’ lump under the skin could be a sign of a ‘rare’ tumour

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Soft tissue sarcomas are a group of “rare” cancers found in the tissues that connect, support and surround other body structures and organs. As a result, parts of the body usually affected include fat, muscle, blood vessels, deep skin tissues, tendons and ligaments. This means soft tissue sarcomas can grow in almost any part of your anatomy.

Like all cancers, potential treatments will depend on the individual and the stage of the cancer.

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are options, but if spotted early enough surgery is the most common way to remove soft tissue sarcomas.

According to the NHS, soft tissue sarcomas often have “no obvious” symptoms in the early stages.

However, signs will become noticeable if it spreads.

The service advised people to be wary of a “painless lump that cannot easily be moved around and gets bigger over time”.

This is caused by swelling under the skin.

Other symptoms include:

  • swelling in the tummy (abdomen) may cause abdominal pain, a persistent feeling of fullness and constipation
  • swelling near the lungs may cause a cough or breathlessness

“You should see a GP if you have a lump – particularly one that’s getting bigger over time,” the NHS says.

“Although it’s much more likely you have a non-cancerous condition, such as a cyst (fluid under the skin) or lipoma (fatty lump), it’s important to have your symptoms checked.”

If your doctor believes you could have soft tissue sarcoma, a number of tests can be carried out.

The NHS adds: “An ultrasound scan is usually the first test done and is fairly simple and quick.

“Further scans, such as an MRI scan, may be done later.”
Patients can then undergo a biopsy – “where a sample of suspected cancerous tissue is removed” to be analysed.

It is not known exactly what causes soft tissue sarcomas, but there are a number of things that can increase the risk.

These include:

  • age
  • certain genetic conditions, such as neurofibromatosis type one and retinoblastoma
  • previous radiotherapy
  • exposure to certain chemicals, including vinyl chloride, dioxins and phenoxyacetic herbicides

There are approximately 4,300 new soft tissue sarcoma cases diagnosed in England every year – or 12 every day.

Cancer Research UK says: “Almost half (45 percent) of people diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma in the UK survive their disease for 10 years or more.”

Sarcomas can also develop in the bones, but symptoms are different.

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