What is sarcoma?
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What is sarcoma?

Sarcoma is a type of cancer that can appear anywhere in the body.

Every day, 15 people are diagnosed with sarcoma in the UK. That’s about 5,300 people a year.

There are two main types of sarcoma:

We’ve got more information below about sarcoma. But if you’d like to talk to someone, our friendly sarcoma specialists on our Support Line are here to help.


What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of sarcoma is a lump that is growing or changing.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Swelling, tenderness or pain in the bone that can be worse at night
  • Stomach pain
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full after a small amount of food
  • Blood in your poo or vomit

What are the different types of sarcoma?

There are two main types of sarcoma: soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma.

Within these two types, there are around 100 subtypes.

What causes sarcoma?

We don’t fully understand why sarcomas happen. More research needs to be done to fully understand how sarcoma develops.

There are a few things that can increase the risk of sarcoma:
    • Age – although people can get sarcoma at any age, like other cancers, the risk increases as we get older.
    • Genetic conditions – some rare genetic conditions can increase your risk of getting sarcoma. Neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome are some examples.
    • Previous radiotherapy – very rarely, some people who had radiotherapy for another type of cancer may develop soft tissue sarcoma years later.
    • Exposure to chemicals – certain chemicals including vinyl chloride, dioxins and phenoxyacetic herbicides have been associated with increased rates of soft tissue sarcoma.
    • Bone conditions – some bone conditions such as Paget’s disease can increase the risk of developing bone sarcoma.

Some people think that injuries can cause sarcoma. There isn’t currently any evidence to support this. However, it can draw attention to a sarcoma that was already there, and can be found if a person has x-rays or scans.

Who does sarcoma affect?

Sarcoma can affect anyone of any age. It’s the third most common cancer in children, but it’s more common in middle-aged or elderly people. 

What are the treatment options?

Surgery is often the first treatment that people have.

People with sarcoma might also have chemotherapy or radiotherapy, depending on their individual circumstances.

Anyone who has sarcoma or a suspected sarcoma should be seen at a sarcoma specialist centre.

I have a lump

If you have a lump, it’s important to be aware of any changes that occur, so you can keep your GP informed.

We have information on how to track your lump here.

Last reviewed: September 2023 | Next review due: September 2026


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