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Synovial Cell Sarcoma: Soft Tissue Cancer Overview

written by: Sarah Mitchell • edited by: lrohner • updated: 4/2/2011

Varying types of cancer invade all facets within the human body, including soft tissues. Synovial cell sarcoma, or soft tissue sarcoma, is a condition in which cancerous tumors develop within the soft tissues of adolescents and young adults, primarily diagnosed within the first 30 years.[1]

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    What is Synovial Cell Sarcoma?

    Synovial cell sarcoma, is a subtype of soft tissue sarcomas, accounting for 8-10% of all sarcoma-related cases.[2] "Synovial" refers to a joint, so it is logical to conclude that synovial cell sarcoma invades a joint's soft tissue. Patients commonly have synovial sarcoma of the knee(s). Although these growths are rare, it is the third leading form of soft tissue cancerous tumors.

    Possible Soft Tissue Sarcoma Causes

    Present-day research suggests that this sarcoma subtype has a neurologic origin due to a “histologic resemblance between neural cells of malignant peripherical nerve sheath tumor (MPNST) and synovial cell sarcoma,” according to Bernardo Vargas, MD, in his article, "Synovial Cell Sarcoma", last updated on September 29, 2010, on eMedicine.[3] Researchers also believe genetic alterations and inherited diseases, such as neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome, may place a person at an increased risk.

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    Symptoms of Cancer: Soft Tissue Sarcoma

    Synovial sarcoma-related symptoms are diverse, ranging in severity. Despite this information, however, patients have suffered from mutual signs and symptoms, including:

    • Deep pain at the tumor site;
    • Tissue soreness and/or swelling;
    • Painless lump(s);
    • Difficult mobility using knees or feet; and/or
    • Other problems associated with hands or arms.
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    How is Synovial Sarcoma Diagnosed?

    Tumors typically begin as a nodule; unfortunately, most are not found until they have enlarged in size. The extent to which a tumor has spread across a patient’s fascial plane is often underestimated by a health care provider’s outward examination. At present, there is no laboratory workup that can diagnosis synovial cell sarcoma. A biopsy and imaging studies, such as x-ray radiographs and MRIs, are often used for a definitive diagnosis, although MRIs are often preferred over x-ray radiographs. "Snowstorms" produced by radiographs are generally indicative of synovial cell sarcoma.

    CT scans are used after a diagnosis has already been made, using the above measures to detect and determine the tumor’s size and location and additional bony involvement.

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    Synovial Cell Sarcoma: Cancer Treatment Options and Prognosis

    Treatment options are determined by the tumor's stage and classification, doctor recommendations, and patient age and health status. Several treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, each presenting with their own benefits and risks.

    Prognosis is determinant on the stage at which the tumor was initially found and when treatment was implemented. For the best possible prognosis, medical intervention must be made immediately. Patients in remission are at-risk for recurrence and should, therefore, make continual follow up visits to their treating physician for preventative care. If the soft tissue sarcoma has resurfaced, aggressive treatment can begin while the tumor is in its earliest stage.

    Disclaimer: The preceding information is for educational purposes only and should not replace the health care advice and diagnosis by a licensed physician.

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    References

    eMedicine. “Synovial Cell Sarcoma”, http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1257131-overview. [1,3 ]

    Sarcoma Foundation of America. “Sarcoma Subtype Information”, http://www.curesarcoma.org/index.php/patient_resources/subtypes/synovial_sarcoma/. [2]

    Patient Resources

    Sarcoma Foundation of America. “Patient Resources: About Sarcoma”, http://www.curesarcoma.org/index.php/patient_resources/.

    Association of Cancer Online Resources, http://acor.org/.