Your child will have a number of tests to investigate their symptoms and confirm a diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma, including:
- medical history and physical examination
- medical imaging, which may include:
- computed tomography (CT) scan
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- bone scan
- positron emission tomography (PET) scan
- biopsy – where a small sample of the cancer is removed to be examined under a microscope. The sample can also be tested for genetic changes that can help determine the best type of treatment for your child
- lumbar puncture (spinal tap) – where a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is taken to be examined under a microscope
- bone marrow aspiration and biopsy – where a sample of bone marrow is taken with a small piece of bone to be examined under a microscope.
These tests are explained in more detail in How is cancer diagnosed?.
If your child is diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, some of the diagnostic tests will also help to stage the tumour. Staging determines where the tumour is, how big it is, which nearby organs are involved and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. This is important to determine the outlook (prognosis) for your child, and to decide on the best options for treatment.
There are different ways to assess the stage or extent of disease. One of the most common ways to describe stages for soft tissue sarcoma is as follows:
- Stage IA – the tumour is low grade (likely to grow and spread slowly) and less than 5 cm across
- Stage IB – the tumour is low grade (likely to grow and spread slowly) and more than 5 cm across
- Stage IIA – the tumour is mid grade (somewhat likely to grow and spread quickly) or high grade (likely to grow and spread quickly) and less than 5 cm across
- Stage IIB – the tumour is mid grade (somewhat likely to grow and spread quickly) and more than 5 cm across
- Stage III – the tumour is high grade (likely to grow and spread quickly) and more than 5 cm across, or has spread to nearby lymph nodes
- Stage IV – the tumour has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the lungs.
More information about staging for soft tissue sarcomas can be found from the National Cancer Institute (United States).