Soft Tissue Sarcomas | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is soft tissue sarcoma diagnosed?

The first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete diagnosis. A physician may order a number of different tests to diagnose soft tissue sarcoma, determine its exact type and whether it has spread. In addition to a medical history and physical exam, these may include:

There may be other diagnostic tests that your doctor will discuss with you depending on your child's individual situation. After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best possible treatment options.

What are the treatment options for soft tissue sarcoma?

Soft tissue sarcoma treatment typically involves an approach that combines surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, in recent years, pediatric oncology physician scientists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s and other leading cancer centers have learned more about the specific genetic mutations within soft tissue sarcomas. Some clinical trials are now testing medicines that target these specific mutations (known as precision medicine). It is possible that these targeted therapies may play a larger role in soft tissue sarcoma treatment in the future.

Currently, soft tissue sarcoma treatment is likely to include:

While chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating certain cancers, the agents don't completely differentiate normal healthy cells from abnormal cells. Because of this, your child could have adverse side effects during treatment.

What is the long-term outlook for children with soft tissue sarcoma?

Over the past 30 years, there has been drastic improvement in survival for children with soft tissue sarcomas. Complete surgical removal can control the tumor in about 80 percent of cases. Adding radiation therapy after surgery can increase cure rates to 90 to 95 percent. If the tumor can’t be completely removed or it has spread to other parts of the body, the prognosis is poorer. Outcomes for progressive or recurrent soft tissue sarcoma are poor.

Some children who are treated for soft tissue sarcoma and other pediatric cancers can experience significant long-term problems as a result of their treatment. All children who have been treated for cancer require ongoing, specialized cancer survivorship care.

Through the David B. Perini Jr. Quality of Life Clinic, our cancer survivorship clinic, childhood cancer survivors receive a comprehensive follow-up evaluation from their cancer care team. In addition to meeting with your pediatric oncologists, your child may see one of our endocrinologists, cardiologists, neurologists, neuro-psychologists, and/or alternative/complementary therapy specialists. We also offer patient and family education, psychosocial assessment, genetic counseling, reproductive counseling and opportunities to speak with other childhood cancer survivors.