What is Muscle Cancer?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Muscle cancer is a malignant growth that develops in the cells of a person's muscle tissue. Often referred to as soft tissue sarcomas, muscle cancers are much less common than other types of cancer and usually develop in a person's extremities. When a person does develop this type of cancer, he is unlikely to have obvious symptoms, at least when the cancer is in the earliest stages. With time, however, the cancerous tumor usually grows larger and may begin to cause pain. In most cases of muscle cancer, doctors are unable to identify a cause, but some muscle cancers are linked to immune system defects and genes.


When a person is diagnosed with muscle cancer, this means the cancer originated in his muscle tissues. This differs from cancer that starts in another part of the body and then spreads to the muscles. For example, if cancer develops in a person’s liver, it is usually referred to as liver cancer, even if it spreads to other parts of the body.

Muscle cancer is referred to as soft tissue sarcoma, which basically means a cancer that has developed in the soft tissue of the body. An individual may be diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma without having muscle cancer, however. This type of cancer may also develop in a person’s tendons or the lining of his joints. It may even originate in the nerves, blood vessels, or body fat.

As with other types of cancer, muscle cancer doesn’t usually cause symptoms right away. In time, however, a lump may become noticeable. As the lump gradually grows larger, a person may also experience pain. Since treatment success often depends on the stage of the cancer, the size of the tumor, and whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body, a person may do well to seek a doctor’s evaluation as soon as he notices a lump or abnormality.

Typically, doctors are unable to pinpoint the cause of muscle cancer. Sometimes, however, they may trace it back to a problem with a person’s immune system. Some cases of muscle cancer may even be related to inherited issues. For example, defects in some genes may increase a person’s risk of developing cancers of the soft tissue. Exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals may play a role as well.

Treatment for this type of cancer may depend on where it is located, the size of the tumor, and whether or not it has spread. Surgery may be used to treat this type of cancer, and radiation therapy may help some patients. Chemotherapy may prove helpful as well.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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