Synovial Sarcoma Symptoms & Causes

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What is synovial sarcoma?
Synovial sarcoma is a malignant (cancerous) tumor of the soft tissues, usually around joints. The most common location is near the knee, but it can also occur near other joints, mainly in the arms and legs. It can spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body, particularly to the lungs, but also, less commonly, to nearby lymph nodes.

Is synovial sarcoma common?
Synovial sarcoma is a rare tumor that tends to occur in adolescents and young adults and affects more boys than girls. As a group, soft tissue sarcomas account for less than 1 percent of all new cancer cases each year. In the United States, only about 900 children and adolescents are diagnosed with soft tissue sarcomas each year.

Is it curable?
Synovial sarcoma can be treated using a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Tumors that can be removed with surgery are generally easier to treat. Larger tumors, those that have spread to other parts of the body, or those that cannot be removed surgically are more difficult to cure.


What causes synovial sarcoma?
The exact cause of synovial sarcoma is not entirely understood, however, research has indicated that specific genetic defects may play a role.

Signs and symptoms

What are the symptoms of synovial sarcoma?
Sometimes the symptoms of synovial sarcoma can resemble those of arthritis, bursitis or synovitis. While symptoms may vary from child-to-child, the most common include:

   •   swelling
   •   a mass that may or may not be accompanied by pain
   •   limping or difficulty using legs, arms, hands or feet

Questions to ask your doctor

You and your family are key players in your child’s medical care. It’s important that you share your observations and ideas with your child’s health care provider and that you understand your doctor’s recommendations.? ?If your child is has been diagnosed with a synovial sarcoma, you probably have a lot on your mind. So it’s often helpful to write questions down. Some of the questions you may want to ask include:

   •   What does a diagnosis of a synovial sarcoma mean for my child?
   •   How will you manage my child’s symptoms?
   •   What kind of surgery will my child have? 
   •   How long will recovery take?
   •   Will my child need chemotherapy or radiation?
   •   What are the possible short and long-term complications of treatment?
   •   What is the long-term outlook for my child?
   •   How likely is it that the synovial sarcoma will come back?
   •   What services are available to help my child and my family cope?


Q: How serious is it?
A: Synovial sarcoma is a malignant (cancerous) tumor that can spread to other parts of the body. It is a serious condition that requires a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.

Q: Will my child be OK?
A: The prognosis for children with synovial sarcoma depends on several factors including the size and location of the tumor, whether it can be removed surgically, whether the tumor has spread and your child’s response to treatment. In general, small tumors and those that can be removed surgically are much easier to treat. Larger tumors, tumors that cannot be removed surgically and those that have spread to other parts of the body are more difficult to cure.

Q: Will my child need chemotherapy or radiation?
A: Yes, in addition to surgery, your child’s physician may also recommend chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Q: Where will my child be treated?
A: Children with synovial sarcoma are treated through our joint  Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, one of the world’s best pediatric cancer centers, known for quickly translating scientific discoveries into new treatments.

Children treated through the Bone & Soft Tissue Tumors Program receive inpatient (overnight) at Boston Children’s Hospital and outpatient (day) care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

If your child needs surgery, he will see doctors in our Department of Orthopedics on the second floor of the Fegan building.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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