Solitary fibrous tumour is a type of soft tissue sarcoma, which is a type of cancer.
Solitary fibrous tumour, also known as “SFT”, can occur anywhere throughout the body.
It’s often found in the soft tissues of the body (which includes muscles, tendons, lymph and blood vessels). Specifically, it can be found in the soft tissues that surround the lungs. It’s also found in bones.
It tends to affect middle-aged or older people between the ages of 40 and 70 years old. It affects both males and females.
Scientists think that SFT occurs when chromosomes in cells break and re-join in the wrong way. Researchers are still trying to find out why this happens and whether this causes SFT.
There are an average of 38 cases of SFT diagnosed every year in England.
Although SFT can affect anyone of any age, the median age at diagnosis is 65 years old.
For more information on these statistics, you can visit our soft tissue sarcoma data hub.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of SFT can vary depending on the size and location of your tumour. Before receiving a diagnosis of SFT, you may experience all, some, or none of these symptoms.
- A lump or swelling in the soft tissue.
- This lump is often slow-growing and painless.
SFT in the lungs
You may experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
SFT in the abdomen
You may experience:
- A swollen abdomen
- An inability to completely empty your bladder when urinating.
- A feeling of being very full even after only eating a small amount of food.
SFT in the head and neck area
You may experience:
- A blocked nose.
- Changes in voice.
Some larger SFTs are known to release a hormone which can cause a condition called Doege-Potter syndrome. This syndrome can cause signs and symptoms such as:
- Low blood sugar, which can result in headaches, tiredness, neurological problems, and an increased heart rate.
- Rarely, increased growth in certain parts of the body due to a condition called acromegaly.
A specialist doctor will diagnose SFT through a series of tests. These may include:
- Physical examination – looking at and feeling any lump.
- A scan – taking pictures of the inside of the body using scans such as CT or MRI scans.
- A biopsy – taking and testing a sample of the tumour. Using this biopsy, a doctor will look to see if the biopsy looks like SFT and whether it contains the chromosome error.
To read more about these scans and tests, click here.
- The first treatment method for SFT is surgery. The surgeon will remove the tumour and will aim to take out an area of normal tissue too – also called “taking a margin”. This is to make sure the surgeon removes all the cancer.
- If SFT is affecting the arms and legs, the surgeons will do limb-sparing surgery. This is so the limb can continue to work well.
- If the cancer has spread throughout the limb, surgeons may have to perform a partial or full amputation. This is very rare.
- This treatment uses high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells.
- You may have radiotherapy either before or after surgery.
- Before surgery, radiotherapy aims to shrink the tumour, making it easier to remove.
- After surgery, radiotherapy aims to kill any remaining cancer cells that surgery didn’t remove.
This treatment uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. Doctors may use it in patients who can’t have surgery, have a high risk of cancer returning, or if their cancer has spread (metastasis).
Targeted and immunotherapies
In SFT, researchers are studying treatments called “targeted therapies” and “immunotherapies.”
Targeted therapy is a treatment that stops cancer cells from growing and spreading. It targets specific characteristics within the cells.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that helps your immune system kill cancer cells.
Clinical trials have found that some targeted and immunotherapies work well for SFT. But, more research and trials are needed before these treatments are approved.
You might have a chance to join a study that looks into new ways to diagnose, treat, or use medications. Some studies also look at the care and well-being of patients. Your doctor or nurse can tell you about opportunities to join a clinical trial.
There are trials currently recruiting patients with SFT. For more information, please follow this link.
After treatment, you will have regular follow-up appointments for several years. You should receive a follow-up schedule from your sarcoma clinical nurse specialist. The follow-ups will usually include:
- A chance to discuss symptoms.
- An examination to look for any signs of SFT returning. This may include scans such as CT or MRI scans.
- A chest x-ray to rule out any secondary cancers occurring in the lungs.
After treating a previous tumour, SFT can come back in the same place. This is known as a “local recurrence.”
If the cancer reappears, you should have treatment as quickly as possible. Your treatment plan may include more surgery or radiotherapy, depending on what you need. You can check for recurrences by examining yourself. Your doctor or sarcoma nurse can tell you what to look for.
If the possibility of your cancer returning is a concern, please reach out to your doctor or nurse. They might move your follow-up appointment date earlier to look into your concerns.
What if my cancer spreads to another part of my body?
A recurrence of SFT may be accompanied by cancer in other parts of the body. This is called “metastasis” or “secondary cancer”. Some people are diagnosed with sarcoma because their tumour has spread before the main tumour is found. SFT patients may develop secondary cancers in the lungs. So you can check for this, a chest x-ray is done during follow-up appointments.
Secondary cancers may also appear in the liver and bones. If you have advanced cancer, your treatment may involve surgery, radiotherapy, or other therapies. Doctors will evaluate your treatment on a case-by-case basis.
Last reviewed: 16 October 2023
Next review due: 16 October 2026