Key Points about Synovial Sarcoma
- Synovial sarcoma is a soft tissue cancer that can affect the leg, arm or throat.
- Having certain genetic conditions that affect the soft tissue can increase your risk of developing synovial sarcoma.
- Doctors use imaging tests, biopsy and physical exams to diagnose synovial sarcoma.
- Treatment for synovial sarcoma may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Synovial sarcoma is a rare type of soft tissue cancer that typically occurs near large joints – most often the knee – in young adults between 15 and 40. This type of cancer can also affect the arms or throat. Synovial sarcoma makes up 5 to 10 percent of all soft tissue tumors.
Synovial sarcoma causes
Synovial sarcoma is caused when mutations (changes) occur in the cells, and then those cells grow and multiply quickly.
Synovial sarcoma risk factors
The following factors may increase your risk for developing synovial sarcoma:
- Having been exposed to certain carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals
- Having certain inherited genetic conditions, including:
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Neurofibromatosis 1
- Having undergone radiation therapy
Synovial sarcoma symptoms
In its early stages, this type of cancer typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. When they do occur, signs and symptoms of synovial sarcoma can include:
- A lump that can be felt
- An area of swelling
- Pain in the affected area
Synovial sarcoma diagnosis
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors.
- Biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from the area of the suspected cancer. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for cancer.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan – this type of imaging test provides a 3D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine the size and location of the suspected cancer. Your doctor can also use the CT scan to help determine if the cancer has spread beyond the initial site.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – this type of imaging test uses high-powered magnets to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to determine the size and location of the suspected cancer. Your doctor can also use the MRI to help determine if the cancer has spread beyond the initial site.
Synovial sarcoma treatment
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the synovial sarcoma and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Surgery – you may need to undergo surgery to remove the cancerous area. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible.
- Chemotherapy – you may also need to undergo chemotherapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically. During this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).
- Radiation therapy – this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells. You may need to undergo radiation therapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.