Synovial sarcoma in the early stages looks like a painless, harmless, and immovable mass or lump (a swollen spot). Initially, it may resemble common conditions, such as a cyst (fluid-filled mass) or a lipoma (fatty lump).
The tumor can be hard or soft to touch, grows gradually, and may become large enough to produce symptoms, such as pain, restricted motion, and numbness (due to pressure on the nerves, muscles, or blood vessels).
The term synovial sarcoma is defined as:
- Synovial: Comes from the name “synovium,” a connective tissue that lines the inside of the joints.
- Sarcoma: Presence of cancer cells in bone and soft tissues including cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, and fibrous tissues.
What is synovial sarcoma?
Synovial sarcoma is a rare type of soft tissue (cells that connect, support, and surround the bones and other organs) sarcoma that can arise anywhere in the body but most commonly develops in the extremities, particularly in the thighs, knees, feet, and forearms and, sometimes, the head and neck or abdomen.
Each year, it affects only one to three individuals in a million people (estimated to be less than one percent of all the diagnosed cancers).
It can affect people of all age groups, with a higher tendency to affect teenagers and young adults, and men more often than women.
Other types of soft tissue sarcoma
- Leiomyosarcoma, occurs in muscles
- Liposarcoma, occurs in fat tissues
- Angiosarcoma, develops in the blood or lymph glands
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors, occur in the connective tissues
What are the symptoms of synovial sarcoma?
In the early stages, there may be no noticeable symptoms, but as the tumor grows, symptoms may vary depending on the tumor location, size, and spread to other sites.
- A painless lump or a mass
- Swelling under the skin, cannot be moved and increases in size over time
- Difficulty swallowing and shortness of breath (if the head and neck region or lungs are affected)
- Abdominal pain, the feeling of fullness, and constipation (develops in the abdomen)
What causes synovial sarcoma?
There are no proven or well-established causative factors known for this disease. However, the disease is known to be associated with a chromosomal translocation of chromosome 18 and chromosome X.
This translocation leads to a mutation of the gene, which, in turn, leads to abnormal and uncontrolled growth of the cells forming a tumor, a contributing factor in the development of this disease.
The risk of developing synovial sarcoma is increased in people who have:
- Been exposed to chemicals, such as thorium dioxide, vinyl chloride, or arsenic
- Undergone radiation therapy
- Had a previous history of long-term swelling in the arms or legs
- Inherited conditions, such as Li Fraumeni syndrome or neurofibromatosis type I
How is synovial sarcoma diagnosed?
Synovial sarcoma is a high-grade tumor that can metastasize and spread to distant parts of the body (almost 50 percent of cases), the lungs being the most common and the first site of metastasis.
- X-rays: Images of soft tissues are taken for analysis.
- Computed tomography scan: To determine the extent of the tumor.
- Magnetic resonance imaging: To determine the extent of adjacent tissue involvement.
- Biopsy: A sample of the tumor is removed for further analysis.
- Open biopsy: Sample is removed by a surgical incision.
- Core needle biopsy: Sample is taken by using a large needle.
- Positron emission tomography scan: To identify possible metastasis.
How is synovial sarcoma treated?
The risk of developing distant metastases is higher for patients with tumors larger than 5 cm.
Treatment is planned by considering factors, such as:
- Size of the tumor
- Location of the tumor
- How invasive the tumor is
- Is the tumor metastasize at the time of diagnosis
- Are lymph nodes involved
The treatment plan may consist of:
- Surgery: Entire tumor removal along with some of the surrounding healthy tissues to make sure all the cancerous cells are removed. In rare cases, amputation of the affected limb is the only option left.
- Chemotherapy: Doxorubicin and ifosfamide might be recommended, especially in advanced or metastatic disease.
- Radiation: High-powered energy rays are used to shrink the tumor; they can be used before, during, and after the surgical removal of the tumor.
- Targeted therapy: Involves drugs that block substances necessary for cancer cell growth.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
DerSarkissian C. What is Synovial Sarcoma. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/synovial-sarcoma-overview
National Institutes of Health. Synovial Sarcoma. https://www.cancer.gov/pediatric-adult-rare-tumor/rare-tumors/rare-soft-tissue-tumors/synovial-sarcoma
Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Synovial Sarcoma. https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/7721/synovial-sarcoma
Cleveland Clinic. Synovial Sarcoma. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22012-synovial-sarcoma
Top What Does a Synovial Sarcoma Feels Like Related Articles
Adult Soft Tissue SarcomaSoft tissue sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that forms in the soft tissues of the body. Soft tissues include the muscle, tendons, fat, lymph, blood vessels, and nerves. Sarcomas can appear anywhere in the body but are usually encountered in the arms, legs, chest, abdomen, head, and neck. Although the condition primarily affects adults, it can rarely affect children.
Can Synovial Sarcoma Be Cured?Synovial sarcoma can be cured if detected in the early stages. Learn about treatment and survival rates for this rare type of cancer.
Can You Survive Cardiac Sarcoma?Cardiac sarcomas are difficult to treat and often fatal. Even after treatment, chances of recurrence and spread to other organs are high.
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Top Cancer-Fighting FoodsExperts have praised certain foods for their ability to reduce cancer risks. Learn which foods and eating strategies may help reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Cancer QuizTake this quiz to learn the causes of cancer. Get the facts about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for the world's most common cancers.
Cancer: Cancer 'Remedies' That Don't WorkYou may have read about an all-natural cure for cancer. While many therapies are helpful, some aren't worth your time or money. Even worse, they may be dangerous. Here are a few you should never try.
Cancer: Does This Cause Cancer?Everything gives you cancer, right? Not really. WebMD's slide show tells you about the research into cancer and cell phones, X-rays, plastic bottles, coffee, and more.
Is Tumor a Cancer?A tumor is a mass or lump of tissue in an organ. In a healthy body, cells grow, divide, and are replaced by new cells. In the case of a tumor, the rate of cell multiplication is more than cell destruction. The word tumor is often associated with cancer; however, not all tumors are cancerous.
Kaposi's Sarcoma Ecchymotic PictureKaposi’s Sarcoma Ecchymotic. Kaposi’s Sarcoma Ecchymotic is a type of Kaposi’s sarcoma in which blood vessels from the KS tumors leak blood into the surrounding areas. The tumors from KS have tiny blood vessels which grow beneath the skin and often can be mistaken as bruises or other wounds.
Lipoma vs. LiposarcomaWhile both lipoma and liposarcoma form in fatty tissue, the biggest difference between these two conditions is that lipoma is benign (noncancerous) and liposarcoma is malignant (cancerous).
What Is Genomic Tumor Testing?Genomic testing or genomic assay is performed on a tumor sample taken during a biopsy to look for mutations (changes) in the genes that make the tumor up.
What Is the Survival Rate for Leiomyosarcoma?Leiomyosarcoma is a type of soft tissue cancer that develops in the smooth muscles that line internal organs. The survival rate for leiomyosarcoma is generally higher if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early, before it has spread to other parts of the body.
What Is the Survival Rate of Ewing Sarcoma?The overall 5-year relative survival rate of patients with Ewing sarcoma is 62%. Adults typically do worse compared with children unless the treatment is very aggressive.
Why Is Leiomyosarcoma So Deadly?Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) is a rare type of malignant (cancerous) tumor that arises from the smooth muscle cells. Smooth muscle cells are the muscle cells of the internal organs and blood vessels that are not controlled consciously. LMS is classified as a soft tissue sarcoma and can arise in any part of the body, the most common site being the abdomen.
Signs of Cancer in Women: Symptoms You Can't IgnoreColon and stomach cancer symptoms can surprise women but can be treated if detected early. Learn about breast cancer signs and symptoms, mammograms, tests for gynecological cancers, and other cancers, including skin cancer, lung cancer, throat cancer, and bladder cancer.