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A soft tissue sarcoma is a malignant (cancerous) tumor that develops in mesenchymal tissue. Mesenchymal tissues encompass all the muscle, connective tissues, and bones of the body.

Soft tissue sarcomas can invade surrounding tissue and can metastasize (spread) to other organs of the body, forming secondary tumors. The cells of secondary tumors are similar to those of the primary (original) cancer. Secondary tumors are referred to as "metastatic soft tissue sarcoma" because they are part of the same cancer and are not a new disease. The most common site of spread is to the lungs.

Some tumors of the soft tissue are benign (noncancerous) and are not sarcomas. These tumors do not spread and are rarely life-threatening. However, benign tumors can crowd nearby organs and cause symptoms or interfere with normal body functions.

Scientists do not fully understand why some people develop sarcomas while the vast majority do not. The vast majority develop in patients with no known risk factors or identifiable etiology. However, by identifying common characteristics in groups with unusually high occurrence rates, researchers have been able to single out some factors that may play a role in causing soft tissue sarcomas.

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