Soft-tissue tumors are tumors, or abnormal growths, that develop in the body’s connective tissue, which can include anything in the musculoskeletal system other than bone tissue. For instance, soft-tissue tumors can grow in fat and muscle as well as tendons, fibrous tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. In terms of where they are located, soft-tissue tumors are most often found in the body’s lower extremities, trunk and abdomen, and upper extremities.

There are two types of soft-tissue tumors: those that are malignant (soft-tissue sarcomas) and those that are benign, or noncancerous. Most of the time, soft-tissue tumors are not sarcomas, but lumps of noncancerous tissue. Typically, these soft-tissue tumors develop in adults and are more common tumors than bone sarcomas, or bone cancer. 

Patients often first notice a lump of soft-tissue mass. In order to know for certain that the mass is not soft-tissue sarcoma, an oncologist will perform tests and make a diagnosis. Typically, a biopsy of the soft tissue is taken, and if sarcoma is discovered, the orthopaedic oncologist, the doctor specializing in diagnosis and treatment of bone cancers and diseases, will talk to the patient about their soft-tissue sarcoma and treatment options.

To better understand a cancerous growth like a malignant soft-tissue tumor, the tumor will be classified by both its tissue type as well as grade. The lower the grade, the lower the risk for aggressive growth at the original site or for the tumor to metastasize later on. Doctors will often schedule an imaging test like an MRI scan for a patient with a soft-tissue tumor. This will also allow the orthopaedic oncologist to more closely examine the tumor and see if the tissues are normal, if there are sarcoma tissues, or whether or not the tumor is impacting any nearby tissues, like nerves or blood vessels.

At University Orthopaedic Surgeons, our orthopaedic oncologist, Dr. Anna Wallace, is dual-fellowship-trained in orthopaedic trauma and orthopaedic oncology, making her more than qualified to assess, diagnose, and treat all types of soft-tissue tumors.

Build Your Knowledge of Soft-Tissue Tumors and Orthopaedic Oncology

If you have a soft-tissue mass and were recently diagnosed with soft-tissue sarcoma, it can be helpful to build your knowledge about how it is treated. Here are some terms that can help you better understand soft-tissue tumors, bone disease, and related issues:

  • Benign tumor: Tumors, including bone tumors, can be noncancerous (benign). For instance, osteochondroma is a type of benign bone tumor. It tends to grow at the end of long bones, like the leg bones.
  • Bone cyst: A noncancerous type of fluid-filled bone tumor that is more common in children. A single bone cyst may also be referred to as a nonossifying fibroma unicameral.
  • Enchondroma: A type of cartilage tumor that is benign. Enchondromas can sometimes transform into chondrosarcomas.
  • Fibrous dysplasia: A condition where fibrous tissue begins to grow and replace normal bone and marrow, which weakens the bone.
  • Giant cell tumors: Bone tumors that grow rapidly in the rounded end of the bones, usually near the knee.
  • Lipoma: A noncancerous soft-tissue tumor made up of body fat.
  • Malignant bone tumor: A cancerous tumor that occurs in a hard structure such as bone or cartilage versus a soft tissue such as muscle or blood vessels.
  • Oncology: The field of medicine focused on diagnosing cancer as well as cancer treatment. Oncologists are doctors who work within the field of oncology and diagnose and treat cancer patients.
  • Orthopaedic oncology: Refers to the field of medicine focused on helping patients who have a sarcoma and bone disease that has developed somewhere in the musculoskeletal region, such as the bones and cartilage, or soft tissues, such as the muscles.
  • Primary bone cancer: When a bone cancer develops in the bone first, like osteosarcoma, it is called a primary bone cancer. When cancerous cells move to the bones from a different location, it is not a primary bone cancer. Instead, it is a metastatic bone disease or bone metastases.
  • Sarcoma: An overall term for bone cancer. This includes soft-tissue tumors that are malignant. 

The National Cancer Institute offers additional information on sarcomas, such as osteosarcoma. They also offer resources that can help you cope with cancer.

Exceptional Care at University Orthopaedic Surgeons

Our years of experience and advanced training devoted to the care of orthopaedic issues make us who we are, but our compassionate care of our patients is what makes us dedicated to you. Our orthopaedic oncologist and her team at University Orthopaedic Surgeons are here to improve the health and well-being of our community, treating patients dealing with the full range of bone diseases and conditions. They are also committed to staying up to date on new treatment advances so they can offer the very best to patients.

Dr. Anna Wallace and her orthopaedic oncology team are fully equipped to treat the complete range of cancers as well as noncancerous soft-tissue tumors and bone tumors. They are supported by our entire team of highly experienced nurses and other clinical staff and backed by our state-of-the-art orthopaedic facility. 

Since we understand coping with any cancer or tumor and navigating your appointments and care can be challenging, we remain committed to providing you with the orthopaedic oncology care you need to excel.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with our orthopaedic oncology specialist, call our UT Medical Center office at (865) 546-2663 or request an appointment online.