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What are the symptoms?

Soft tissue sarcoma usually doesn’t cause symptoms in its early stages. As it grows over a period of months, you may develop a painless lump. You may begin to have pain as the lump grows and presses on nerves and muscles. Other symptoms will depend on where in the body the sarcoma is. Sometimes a soft tissue sarcoma may be mistaken for a benign fatty lump (lipoma) or bruise (haematoma). This can delay tests that would help make the right diagnosis.

One rare type of skin cancer, dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP), can show as a flat, slightly raised or even depressed area of skin that may be violet, reddish brown or skin-coloured making it particularly hard to diagnose. While the original tumour is not technically a sarcoma, a small number of people with DFSP have ‘fibrosarcomatous transformation’ where the tumour may progress and show areas of fibrosarcoma, a type of soft tissue sarcoma from supportive tissue. Visit DermNet NZ for more information.

Most people who develop a painless lump do not have a sarcoma. However, you should see your doctor if you notice the lump is getting bigger, is the size of a golf ball or larger, or is painful or tender.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed February 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr Susie Bae, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Tony Bice, Consumer; Dr Denise Caruso, CEO Australian and New Zealand Sarcoma Association, VIC; Emma Gardner, Nurse Coordinator, Bone and Soft Tissue Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jonathan Granek, Consumer; Thelma Lobb, Consumer.