Soft Tissue Sarcoma

Soft tissue sarcomas are malignant tumors that arise from the skin and connective tissues on pets. Seven percent of all skin and subcutaneous tumors in cats and 15 percent of all such tumors in dogs are soft tissue sarcomas. In many cases, no cause for the development of this type of tumor is identified, but soft tissue sarcomas have been associated with radiation therapy, parasites, orthopedic implants and trauma in dogs. In cats, these tumors have been associated with trauma and vaccine administration.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma

How it Affects your pet

A typical soft-tissue sarcoma is a well-defined lump that grows slowly. These tumors can occur anywhere on the body and are not usually painful unless they press against local nerves or other structures. Soft tissue sarcomas are very locally invasive and usually have deep roots below the visible mass. Most soft tissue sarcomas are low to intermediate grade. This means that they are not particularly aggressive and have a less than 25 percent chance of metastasizing. By contrast, high-grade soft tissue sarcomas, including many feline vaccine-associated fibrosarcomas, have a 25 to 45 percent chance of spreading to other organs. This type of cancer usually spreads through the bloodstream, and the lungs are the most common site of metastasis. 

Common symptoms

The most common sign of this dog and cat health problem is a slow-growing mass anywhere on the body. Common locations include the trunk, limbs and inside the mouth. Other symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma in dogs and cats depend on the location of the tumor. Symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas in the limbs can include the following: Lameness, Limb pain, Muscle wasting and Paralysis. Symptoms for tumors inside the abdomen often include the following: Vomiting, Weight loss, Loss of appetite, Diarrhea and Tarry stools. Symptoms of this disease in the spinal cord include the following: Clumsiness, Pain and Inability to walk.

Treatments

Aggressive surgical excision with large margins is the treatment of choice for this pet health problem. This means that the surgeon must remove the entire tumor with at least 3 centimeters of healthy tissue on all sides. Because the difference between healthy tissue and tissue containing cancer cells cannot be seen with the naked eye, the excised tumor must be examined by a pathologist under a microscope to confirm margins. If the margins are incomplete, a second surgery may be recommended. If another surgery is not possible, the pet may be treated with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy may be necessary if the excised tumor was high grade. Pets with tumors that are too large to remove surgically or in locations that make surgery impractical are often treated with radiation therapy. In some cases, radiation may also be used to shrink a tumor until it is small enough to make surgical removal possible.

Breeds Affected

This cat and dog health problem occurs in members of all canine and feline breeds. These tumors are most common in animals between eight and ten years old.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma Affects

  • A typical soft-tissue sarcoma is a well-defined lump that grows slowly. These tumors can occur anywhere on the body and are not usually painful unless they press against local nerves or other structures. Soft tissue sarcomas are very locally invasive and usually have deep roots below the visible mass. Most soft tissue sarcomas are low to intermediate grade. This means that they are not particularly aggressive and have a less than 25 percent chance of metastasizing. By contrast, high-grade soft tissue sarcomas, including many feline vaccine-associated fibrosarcomas, have a 25 to 45 percent chance of spreading to other organs. This type of cancer usually spreads through the bloodstream, and the lungs are the most common site of metastasis. 

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