Synovial Sarcoma: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment Options

An unusual lump or swelling in any part of the body is generally a cause for concern and must be diagnosed. But, some people may ignore the condition and may just take painkillers to subdue the pain without knowing that it can be potentially deadly.

It often hinders our movement and is frequently mistaken to be a case of inflammation of the joints, commonly known as arthritis. Hence, it’s crucial to know what exactly is causing the lump and receive timely treatment.

What Is Synovial Sarcoma?

Synovial sarcoma is a rare and dangerous soft tissue tumor

Synovial sarcoma is a rare and aggressive soft tissue tumor that usually occurs near the joints. The tumor cells closely resemble the lining of the tissues of joints (synovial tissue) when observed under a microscope. This dangerous condition can spread to other parts of the body.

Around 10 percent of all sarcomas are synovial sarcomas, which can originate from soft tissues like tendons, fat, nerves, muscle, synovial tissue, blood vessels or fibrous tissue.1

One percent of all tumors in adults and 15 percent of all tumors in pediatric age group is because of synovial sarcoma, which is most commonly observed between the ages of 10 and 35 years. Although it can occur at any age, it is most often reported among teenagers and young adults2 and it is more prevalent among males than in females.

It generally occurs close to a joint and is also seen between the knee and the thigh, and in legs and arms. It can also spread to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes. Three percent of cases are known to occur in the head and neck region.3

What Are The Causes Of Synovial Sarcoma?

The translocation of certain chromosomes may cause synovial sarcoma


exact causes of synovial sarcoma are not entirely understood although certain genetic factors are known to have a role in the development of the sarcomas of the soft tissues in almost 90 percent of the cases. The translocation between chromosome X and chromosome 18, also called a somatic mutation, only develops in some cells of the body during a person’s lifetime. 4

Most cases of synovial sarcoma are not thought to be inherited and may occur randomly in people with no family history of the condition. Inherited diseases such as Li Fraumeni syndrome or neurofibromatosis type 1 are linked to an increased risk of developing synovial sarcoma. Studies show that exposure to radiation therapy and/or some chemical carcinogens may also be risk factors for this dangerous condition.

Signs And Symptoms Of Synovial Sarcoma

Symptoms of synovial sarcoma include lumps or swellings and pain in the lumps


that are commonly noticed in patients with synovial sarcoma include,

  • Lumps or swellings
  • Pain in the swelling
  • Difficulty in using one’s arms and limbs
  • Numbness in arms and legs

The symptoms usually differ depending on the size of the lump and its location. Since these symptoms are similar to those of synovitis, bursitis or arthritis that can occur because of other conditions as well, it is important to diagnose the condition at the earliest.

Diagnosis Of Synovial Sarcoma

Biopsy, blood tests, CT scan, and MRI scan can help diagnose synovial sarcoma

The presence of characteristic signs and symptoms of this condition is a reason strong enough for its diagnosis. Detailed testing can then be recommended to confirm the diagnosis, ascertain the severity of the condition and suggest treatment options. Tests to diagnose synovial sarcoma include,

  • Biopsy to analyze the tissues for the presence of cancerous cells
  • Blood tests
  • Genetic testing and analysis to detect chromosomal abnormalities
  • Imaging studies such as x-ray, CT scan and/or MRI scan
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  • Bone scans to assess any changes in the joints, diseases, and tumors of the bones

Treatment For Synovial Sarcoma

Surgery is the most common treatment for synovial sarcoma

The treatment options of synovial sarcoma are dependent on the person’s age, the size and location of the tumor, and the severity of the condition. Surgically removing the entire tumor is by far the most common treatment. Sometimes, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may also be required before and/or after the surgery.5

Before the surgery, these two therapies are useful in reducing the size of the tumor, which also prevents excess tissue removal. After the surgery is performed, both therapies help in reducing the risk of recurrence.

Can Synovial Sarcoma Be Prevented?

Regular blood tests, radiology, and physical examinations can help in monitor synovial sarcoma


synovial sarcoma is not preventable. Once a person is diagnosed with this condition, periodic blood tests, radiological examinations, and physical examinations are mandatory. Since synovial sarcoma has a high possibility of recurring, regular follow-up is essential.

When Should You Consult A Physician?

When Should You Consult A Physician

Since synovial sarcoma has a survival rate of 50-60 percent at five years and 40-50 percent at 10 years, earlier detection of this condition helps in effective treatment. You must get yourself examined by a doctor if,

  • You suddenly develop numbness in the area of swelling
  • You have pain in the swelling
  • You experience difficulty in performing your regular activities
  • You notice sudden swelling that is increasing in size