Soft Tissue Sarcomas Diagnosis
If you have a lump or mass on your body, your doctor may want to order different tests to see if it is a sarcoma. These tests will involve imaging and biopsies.
Before you have imaging or biopsies, your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination and ask you about your medical history.
Sarcoma Imaging Studies
In general, imaging studies are painless procedures. They may cause slight discomfort because you often have to lie very still, which can sometimes take up to an hour.
The goal of these scans is to obtain a clear, accurate and detailed picture of the inside of your body. The images help the doctor determine the size of the tumor, its location and if it has spread to other organs.
- Xray uses radiation technology to capture a detailed picture of the inside of your body.
- Computed tomography (CT) scans are similar to Xrays. The machine rotates around you, providing your doctor with a crosssectional image of your body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses powerful magnetic waves to create an image of your body.
- Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce pictures. The technician moves a probe, called a transducer, over your body to obtain the images.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan uses a small amount of radioactive material to find cancer cells. The radioactive material concentrates around the cancer, allowing your doctor to pinpoint the tumor.
Soft Tissue Sarcomas Biopsies
Biopsies are more invasive than imaging studies, but they offer a definitive diagnosis. Your doctor removes cells from the mass and sends them to a lab for analysis. A trained pathologist studies the cells and determines if they are cancerous. Depending on the type of biopsy, either you will receive a local anesthetic to numb the area, or you will receive general anesthesia.
Types of biopsies include:
- Fine needle aspiration (FNA). Your doctor inserts a very thin needle to remove small amounts of tissue from the mass. If the doctor cannot find the tumor by feeling the area, then a CT scan will be used to help locate the tumor.
- Core needle biopsy. This is similar to FNA but uses a larger needle to remove a bigger piece of the tumor.
- Surgical biopsy
- Excisional biopsy. The surgeon removes the entire tumor during an operation.
- Incisional biopsy. The surgeon removes a large piece of the tumor, in order to determine the type and grade of sarcoma.