When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel overwhelming. This phase involves finding out if your child has cancer, and determining the type of cancer they have. Children’s cancer can be difficult to diagnose, as many symptoms are similar to those caused by less serious conditions, or injuries. This means that your child may need several tests and medical appointments before you receive confirmation that your child has cancer.

If your doctor thinks your child has soft tissue sarcoma, they may undergo the following tests:

  • medical history and physical exam
  • medical imaging, such as:
    • X-ray
    • ultrasound
    • computed tomography (CT) scan
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
    • bone scan
    • positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • biopsy, perhaps with a test for genetic changes to help find the best way to treat your child
  • lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
  • bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.

Our section, How is cancer diagnosed? explains these tests in more detail.

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Doctors use staging to describe how much the cancer has grown and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Some of the tests for soft tissue sarcoma will also help to stage the tumour. Staging measures:

  • where the tumour is
  • how big the tumour is
  • what nearby organs it affects
  • if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Your doctor will use this information to determine the best way to treat the disease. Staging will also give your doctor an idea of how well these treatments are likely to work (prognosis). How doctors assess the stage or extent of disease varies. Different staging systems may be used depending on your diagnosis and may include a description such as Stage I to IV and/or Group 1-4.  Once all your staging investigations are complete your doctor will inform you of your child’s stage and what that means for them.

You can find out more information about staging for soft tissue sarcomas at National Cancer Institute (United States).