Symptoms and diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma


Usually sarcomas do not cause any symptoms for a long time until they become larger and press on an organ, a nerve or muscle. The symptoms of a sarcoma may include:

  • Any lump, especially if it is increasing in size and bigger than 5cm (2 inches)
  • Any lump that is painful and tender
  • Any lump that is deep in your body, and not just under your skin
  • Any lump that has come back after being surgically removed
  • A lung sarcoma might cause a cough and breathlessnessA sarcoma in your tummy (abdomen) might cause abdominal pain, vomiting and constipation
  • A sarcoma affecting your womb might cause bleeding from your vagina and pain in your lower tummy

If you notice any of the above symptoms, get them checked out by your doctor. But remember these symptoms might be caused by conditions other than cancer too.


Testing for soft tissue sarcomas when you have no symptoms is called screening. There is no national cancer screening programme in Ireland for soft tissue sarcomas. If you are worried in any way, talk to your GP.


First visit your family doctor (GP) if you are worried about any symptoms. If your doctor has concerns about you, he or she will refer you to a hospital specialist. At the hospital, the specialist might arrange more tests. You might need some of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray

Special tests:

  • Core needle biopsy
  • Surgical biopsy

Core needle biopsy: For this test, a needle is placed in the lump to take a sample of cells. You will first be given a local anaesthetic so that you cannot feel any pain. If the lump is deep, your doctor will use an ultrasound scan or CT scan to see where the needle is going and guide it into the right place.. Children usually have a general anaesthetic.

Other tests:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound
  • PET scan

An extra blood test may be done to check the level of calcium in your blood. If secondary cancer is found before the primary cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will do some tests to find out where the cancer started. This is so that your doctors can decide on the best treatment for you.

Learn more about the above tests

Call our National Cancer Helpline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm