General Treatment Overview

How are soft tissue sarcomas treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.

The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.

Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

Treatment of soft tissue sarcomas, by stage

The only way to cure a soft tissue sarcoma is to remove it with surgery, so surgery is part of the treatment for all soft tissue sarcomas whenever possible. It is important that your surgeon and other doctors are experienced in the treatment of sarcomas. These are difficult tumors to treat and require both experience and expertise. Studies have shown that patients with sarcomas have better outcomes when they are treated at specialized cancer centers that have experience in sarcoma treatment.

General treatment information

Experts recommend that patients with sarcoma have a health care team made up of doctors from different specialties, such as:

  • An orthopedic surgeon: a surgeon who specializes in diseases of the bones, muscles, and joints (for sarcomas of the arms and legs)
  • A surgical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with surgery (for sarcomas of the abdomen and retroperitoneum)
  • A thoracic surgeon: a doctor who treats diseases of the lungs and chest with surgery
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy
  • A physiatrist (or rehabilitation doctor): a doctor who treats injuries or illnesses that affect how you move

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, physical therapists, and other health professionals.

After a sarcoma is found and staged, your team will recommend one or several treatment options. This decision is important, so take time and think about all of the choices. In choosing a treatment plan, factors to consider include the type, location, and stage of the cancer, as well as your overall physical health.

The main types of treatment for soft tissue sarcoma are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted Therapy

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You may want to seek a second opinion. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel more confident about the chosen treatment plan. Some insurance companies require a second opinion before they will agree to pay for treatments.

Often, if the original tumor was surgically removed with clean margins and there are no signs of any other LMS, the doctors might suggest either:

  1. Wait and watch, or
  2. Adjuvant treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Note: Be sure to read about the value of participating in a patient registry: 

Patient Registry

Reaching For the Cure Together