Sarcoma (bone sarcoma and soft tissue sarcoma)

There were 89 cases of sarcoma diagnosed in Northern Ireland in 2015. Cancers of the bone and connective tissue (sarcomas) are rare. They can arise in any part of the body and there are many different types. It is useful to divide them into bone sarcomas and soft tissue sarcoma which includes fat, muscles, blood vessels, deep skin tissues, nerves, tendons, ligaments and the tissues around the joints. The earlier a cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat it and the more likely the treatment is to be successful.

Signs and symptoms

The exact symptoms of sarcomas will vary, depending on the size of the cancer and where it is in the body. Common symptoms of bone sarcoma include:

  • increasing, unexplained or persistent bone pain or tenderness, particularly pain at rest (and especially if not in the joint);
  • swelling over the affected part;
  • reduced movement:
    • if the cancer is near a joint, this can make it more difficult to move the joint and it can affect the movement of the whole limb;
    • if the affected bone is in the leg, it may cause a limp;
    • if the tumour is in the spine, it may press on nerves, causing weakness or numbness and tingling in the limbs.
  • ​broken bone (bone cancer is sometimes discovered when a bone that has been weakened by cancer breaks spontaneously or after a minor fall or accident).

Other less common symptoms may include:

  • tiredness;
  • fever or sweats;
  • weight loss;
  • very rarely a weakened bone may break (called a pathological fracture).

If you regularly experience any of the above symptoms, it is important that you see your GP.


There are a number of websites that provide information relating to sarcomas, these include

This is not an exhaustive list and other sources of support in Northern Ireland can also be accessed via Northern Ireland Cancer Network.