The extremities of the body (arms and legs) are made up of many types of cells often referred to as connective tissue. These cells include bone, cartilage, muscle, nerves, fat, and blood vessel cells. When something “triggers” one of these cell types to begin growing at an abnormal rate an extremity tumor (also called a mass) can form. These tumors may be malignant or benign.
Malignant is another word for cancer. Malignant tumors can spread to other areas of the body, such as the abdomen, lungs, brain or other bones. The area of the body where a malignant tumor starts is considered the primary site. If a malignant tumor spreads to another area of the body the tumor is described as being metastatic.
A sarcoma is a cancerous (malignant) tumor of the connective tissues. There are many types of extremity sarcomas. While all are considered rare, there are some that are more common than others. In addition, those that are more commonly seen in kids may be different than those that are more commonly seen in adults.
The more common types are:
Malignant Extremity Tumors in Adults
- Malignant Fibrous Histocytoma (MFH) of bone
- Ewing Sarcoma
- Soft tissue sarcoma
- Metastatic bone tumor
Malignant Extremity Tumors in Children
Benign extremity tumors rarely metastasize and are not cancerous. They are usually described according to their aggressiveness. Some can be extremely aggressive, growing rapidly and ‘invading’ areas around them. Others can be inactive but cause pain or other problems due to their location. Benign tumors also tend to recur so it is advised to follow-up regularly with a healthcare professional to monitor benign tumors.
Common benign tumors of the extremities include: