Soft-Tissue Sarcoma

Look to UC San Diego Health for your sarcoma care.

We're the region's only medical center recognized for our expertise in sarcomas by the Sarcoma Foundation of America and Sarcoma Alliance, two highly respected patient advocacy groups. These distinctions mean we have the familiarity and knowledge — and advanced technologies and approaches — to accurately diagnose and treat your disease.

Nationally Ranked Cancer Care

UC San Diego Health is repeatedly ranked among the nation's best in cancer care by U.S. News & World Report. We are also the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Diego County. This is the highest possible rating for a U.S. cancer center, and it means you’ll receive the best possible care and support. Studies show patient outcomes are better at NCI-designated cancer centers. Our sarcoma team also cares for more patients with soft-tissue sarcoma and bone cancer than any other San Diego health care system.

Types of Soft Tissue Sarcomas

We treat all types of sarcoma, including:

  • Liposarcoma: Develops from fat cells, and occurs most commonly in the legs (at the back of the knee and thigh) and in the abdominal area. The most common form of soft tissue sarcoma, it usually occurs in people between 50 and 70.
  • Leiomyosarcoma: This rare tumor develops from the tissue that makes up involuntary muscle. It occurs most commonly in the abdomen and extremities and tends to be very aggressive.
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma: This very rare cancer generally develops in muscle tissue and is most common in children and young adults.
  • Synovial sarcomas: This tumor develops near joints (often the legs and arms) and is named for its molecular resemblance to synovial tissue, the tissue lining of the joints.  
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors: GIST develop in the cells that line the walls of the gastrointestinal tract. UC San Diego Health is one of only a few medical centers on the West Coast that regularly treats these rare cancers. 
  • Fibrosarcoma: Develops in the fibrous tissue found at the end of long bones in the arms and legs, and in the trunk. It's most common in adults under 60.
  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma: These develop in fibrous tissue in the arms and legs and occur most often in older adults.
  • Angiosarcomas: These develop in the blood or in lymph vessels and are then found in skin, soft tissue, liver, breast, spleen, bone, lung and heart.
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS): This cancer occurs most often in patients with AIDS. At UC San Diego Health, specialists from the Owen Clinic and Moores Cancer Center collaborate to deliver the best treatment for individuals with KS. Our specialist for KS treatment is Erin Reid, MD.

Diagnosis and Staging

At UC San Diego Health, patients undergo a thorough evaluation to obtain an accurate diagnosis and staging of any cancer. This evaluation may include blood work and advanced imaging such as MRI, CT or PET scans. Your doctor may also recommend a biopsy so tissue samples can be examined by a pathologist under a microscope. Most sarcomas can be diagnosed and staged through imaging and tumor biopsy.

The stage of cancer describes the tumor's size and whether it has spread beyond its original area of the body. In sarcoma staging, doctors also evaluate the appearance of the tumor under the microscope and judge how fast the cancer seems to be growing.

Treatment for Soft-Tissue Sarcoma

Treatment options for soft-tissue sarcomas include surgery, radiation therapy, and sometimes chemotherapy. The combination of treatments will depend on the type and stage of the sarcoma.


The primary treatment for most soft tissue sarcomas is surgery to remove the tumor. UC San Diego Health surgeons are experienced in treating these rare cancers, and use the latest advances in surgical techniques, including new organ-sparing procedures to completely remove tumors while preserving nearby organs and function. In cases where organs or vessels do needs to be removed, we can perform reconstructive or vascular surgery to maintain function.

Radiation therapy

Although surgery is the primary treatment for most sarcomas, radiation therapy is often used as an additional treatment. 

UC San Diego Health radiation oncologists use the most advanced technologies available to precisely target cancer cells and reduce damage to surrounding healthy tissues. Therapeutic radiation may be used before surgery to shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells left behind.


Chemotherapy may be used to shrink tumors and make the tumor easier to remove through surgery or radiation treatment. 

Sarcoma Care Team

At UC San Diego Health, your cancer care is led by a multidisciplinary team of doctors who specialize in your type of cancer. Highly specialized multidisciplinary care is a hallmark of top-tier academic medical centers such as UC San Diego Health. For patients like you, it means you receive the highest level of care for these rare cancers. Find a sarcoma specialist.

Clinical Trials

Advancing Cancer Care and Prevention

UC San Diego Health physicians are actively researching ways to improve cancer care. By joining a clinical trial, you may receive a new cancer treatment before it is available to the public. If your cancer has not responded to standard therapies, talk to your doctor about whether a clinical trial could be right for you.

Patient & Family Support Services

At UC San Diego Health, your care goes beyond treating disease. It also includes supporting you and your loved ones emotionally throughout your cancer journey. Most of our support services are free.

Browse All Support Services

Palliative Care

Palliative care is designed to relieve suffering and improve your quality of life by focusing on your physical and emotional comfort during treatment. Palliative care is not reserved for end-of-life care.

Palliative Care


More about Sarcoma

For more information about sarcoma, visit our Health Library, the Sarcoma Alliance and the Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA).