Surgery is the most common treatment for soft tissue sarcomas. It greatly increases the chance of cure.
The goal of surgery is to take out the cancer while preserving the function of the affected area. Fortunately, advances in the care of people with sarcomas in either their arms or legs have made the need for amputation rare. Most people can have surgery that removes the cancer and preserves the function of the affected limb. The surgeon tries to remove the whole tumor whenever possible. Whether or not the surgeon can remove the whole tumor depends on these traits of the tumor:
size of the muscle or other tissue surrounding it
If the tumor is in your arm or leg, the surgeon also removes some of the tissue surrounding the tumor. This is called a margin. Surgeons do this to reduce the risk that cancer cells will be left behind to regrow after your surgery. The margin typically measures about 1 inch on each side of the tumor.
If a tumor is large or very near important structures, you may need radiation or chemotherapy, or both, after surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells. In some cases, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used before surgery to shrink the tumor and make it easier to remove.
Surgery for soft tissue sarcoma generally happens in an operating room at a hospital. You will meet with a surgeon to talk about your operation before you have it. At this meeting, you can ask any questions and address any concerns you have about the surgery. If your tumor is located in your arm or leg, the surgeon will also talk with you about how well your arm or leg will function after the surgery.
Many times, when the cancer is large or deep, surgeons use reconstructive surgery, such as skin grafts, to help close the wound. This can help preserve function of the affected body part after surgery.