When is a Lump More Serious?

Have you ever noticed a small lump somewhere on your body, and thought: I wonder what this is? While it may be nothing to worry about, it's always good practice to have a doctor examine any unknown lumps to rule out anything serious.

"Many patients have a painless mass, with no other symptoms, which prompts them to schedule an appointment," says Joel Sorger MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, who specializes in orthopedic oncology.

Could My Lump Be Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

Sarcomas occur when malignant cancer cells arise in bone or soft tissue such as:

  • Muscle
  • Fat
  • Blood vessels
  • Nerves
  • Tendons

While they can be found anywhere within the body, more than 50% occur in the extremities. Other areas where they are found include:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Trunk
  • Internal organs
  • Abdominal cavity

Sarcomas are not common, but when they do occur, they can be very serious if diagnosed at an advanced stage. There are more than many types of bone and soft tissue sarcomas, but many are treated using similar methods and share similar characteristics.

There are also many type of benign noncancerous bone and soft tissue tumors. These are diagnosed by imaging studies such as x-rays and MRIs and occasionally by biopsy.

Symptoms to Watch For:

"If the sarcoma is located in an extremity, you may notice no symptoms at all," Dr. Sorger says. As the disease progresses, you may notice a small lump, which will develop over a number of weeks or months. Aside from the development of a lump, additional sarcoma symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • A rapidly expanding mass
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty moving the extremity

Many individuals do not experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage, making it difficult for sarcomas to be diagnosed early.

What Testing Will My Doctor Do?

You doctor will do a complete physical, inquire about your medical history, and possibly order an imaging test. If you do have a lump, and your doctor suspects soft tissue sarcoma, he or she will perform a biopsy to test the tissue. The two common biopsy types are:

  • Needle biopsy
  • Open biopsy

Once the biopsy is complete, the tissue will be examined to determine if you have either a sarcoma, or a benign tumor.

If you notice that a lump has developed on your body, it is best to schedule an appointment with your doctor to make sure it is nothing serious. Early detection leads to earlier and a higher chance of successful treatment.

Tags Cancer , Orthopedics