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Soft tissue sarcoma is a type of cancer that grows in the body’s soft connective tissue including:
Soft tissue sarcomas account for about 7% of all childhood cancers. They can be divided into 2 main types:
Soft tissue sarcomas are named for the tissue that they most resemble:
Rhabdomyosarcoma is more common in younger children. NRSTS is more common in teens. These types of cancers can range from local to highly metastatic (spreading through the body).
Certain conditions passed through families can increase risk for soft tissue sarcomas. Children who have been exposed to radiation are also at higher risk. Treatment for soft tissue sarcoma usually includes surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
Drummond CJ, Hanna JA, Garcia MR, Devine DJ, Heyrana AJ, Finkelstein D, Rehg JE, Hatley ME. Hedgehog Pathway Drives Fusion-Negative Rhabdomyosarcoma Initiated From Non-myogenic Endothelial Progenitors. Cancer Cell. 2018 Jan 8;33(1):108-124.e5. https://www.cell.com/cancer-cell/abstract/S1535-6108(17)30524-X. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2017.12.001.
"Two years off therapy, we are cancer free but still not at the 5-year mark. As time passes, I find that my worries change. The stress of cancer is still there. 'Scanxiety' hits as our 6-month checkup time gets closer. But what I look for now are more post-therapy effects, especially related to proton beam radiation because it just hasn’t been around long enough to know what to expect."
– Michelle, mom to Reid
Reid was treated for two rare cancers behind his eye: rhabdomyosarcoma and ectomesenchymoma. His treatments included surgery, chemotherapy, and proton beam radiation.
Soft tissue sarcomas can return years later. The tumor can come back in the same place or in another part of the body.
Your child will need follow-up care to screen for recurrence after treatment ends. The medical team will tell you which tests are needed and how often your child should have checkups.
Children treated for soft tissue sarcoma are at risk for late effects related to therapy. Specific problems depend on the location of the tumor and the type of therapy your child received.
Long-term effects of surgery can include loss of function and changes in appearance.
Survivors who were treated with radiation therapy may have growth problems, bone disease, and other issues due to treatment. They may also have a higher risk of second cancers.
Survivors who were treated with systemic chemotherapy should be monitored for:
All survivors should continue to have regular physical checkups and screenings by a primary physician. A healthy lifestyle and eating habits can also help.
Reviewed: December 2022