The goal of surgery for soft tissue sarcoma is to remove the entire tumor, making sure that no cancer cells remain at the edge of the tissue. Because soft tissue sarcomas can be found all over the body, the exact type of surgery will depend on where the tumor is located.
Types of Soft Tissue Sarcoma Surgery
- Wide Local Excision Surgery. Your surgeon will most likely perform a wide local excision. This means that the surgeon removes not only the tumor, but also a border, or margin, of healthy surrounding tissue. This reduces the risk of the cancer recurring (coming back.) If the tissue was removed with “positive margins,” this means that some cancer might remain; tissue that has “negative/clear margins” means cancer is not growing into the edges and chances of recurrence are much lower.
- Limb Surgery for Soft Tissue Sarcoma. In the past, a patient with soft tissue sarcoma in an arm or leg often faced amputation in order to get rid of the cancer entirely. While amputation is still necessary on occasion, it is by no means the standard approach. Most patients undergo limb sparing surgery, which is a combination of surgery and then radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. The additional treatments destroy any remaining cancer cells.
- There are cases in which surgery is not an option; for example, if the sarcoma has spread over an extensive area and cannot be removed. In this case, your doctor will use a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat the cancer.
- Reconstructive surgery. If your surgeon needed to remove a large amount of tissue, you may need reconstructive surgery following the procedure. The reconstruction surgery will be performed at the same time as the surgery to remove the cancer. A specially trained plastic surgeon works carefully to restore the area of your body to how it looked and functioned precancer. The exact type of operation depends on which area of the body had the sarcoma.