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Am I At Risk for Soft Tissue Sarcoma?

radiation
Being exposed to radiation, such as having it as part of treatment for breast or cervical cancer, can increase your risk for soft tissue sarcoma.

There is really no way to know for sure if you're going to get soft tissue sarcoma. Most people who get this type of cancer have no risk factors. Remember, just because you have one or more risk factors doesn't necessarily mean you will get soft tissue sarcoma. In fact, most people do not. You can have all the risk factors and still not get soft tissue sarcoma, or you can have no known risk factors and still get it.

While the majority of people who get soft tissue sarcomas have no known risk factors, certain things can make one person more likely to get a soft tissue sarcoma than another person. These are the known risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma.

I have been exposed to radiation

People who have had high-dose radiation to treat other cancers, such as breast or cervical cancer, have a slightly higher risk of developing a soft tissue sarcoma. In general, routine X-rays and diagnostic tests do not put people at a higher risk of soft tissue sarcoma.

I have a damaged lymph system or lymphedema

Chronic lymphedema (where fluid collects in the tissue and causes swelling) after radiation to lymph nodes, or surgical removal of lymph nodes is also a risk factor.

I have been exposed to chemicals

People who have worked with or have been around certain chemicals may be at greater risk of developing soft tissue sarcoma. It is not known for certain, but it is thought that high exposure to herbicides, as well as the chemical dioxin and chlorophenols, may increase the risk.

I have certain illnesses in my family history

If someone in your family has certain diseases, you may be more at risk for developing a soft tissue sarcoma. If you have many family members who have had sarcoma or other cancers at a young age, ask your health care provider about genetic testing to see if you are at greater risk for developing a sarcoma. You may have inherited a gene that is defective if anyone in your family had one of these diseases:

  • Neurofibromatosis. This disease runs in families. In this disease, noncancerous tumors form in the nerves under the skin and in other parts of the body. About 5% of people with these tumors get malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (cancer in nerve coverings).

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome. This disease runs in families. It increases a person's chance of getting breast cancer, brain tumors, leukemias, and sarcomas.

  • Retinoblastoma. This eye cancer, found in children, may run in families. Children who have been cured of this form of eye cancer may be at a slightly greater risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas later in life.

In the past, people believed that injuries to muscles or other tissues made a person more likely to get soft tissue sarcoma. This is not true. Injury is not a risk factor for soft tissue sarcoma.