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Synovial sarcoma refers to a rare soft tissue sarcoma, or cancer, that occurs mainly in young adults. Generally, soft tissue sarcomas occur in muscles, fibrous tissue, and fat. Synovial tissue is the tissue that lines joint cavities such as the elbow, knee, and tendons. Although the incidence of synovial sarcoma is not clearly defined, genetic causes may influence its development. Typically, synovial sarcoma is rare and occurs more often in males than in females.
In about half of the cases, synovial sarcoma tends to develop in the knees and other parts of the leg. The next most common area for synovial sarcoma to develop is in the arms, and less frequently, in the head and neck, trunk, and abdomen. Unfortunately, synovial cancer tends to recur, and sometimes metastasizes or spreads to other body parts such as the lungs, bone marrow, or lymph nodes. Generally, synovial sarcoma is slow growing, so an individual may not notice symptoms right away, which may result in the delay of diagnosis and treatment.
Typically, symptoms of synovial sarcoma include a mass or swelling that may be painful or tender, limited range of motion, and numbness. Symptoms of synovial cell sarcoma may mimic other, less serious medical conditions such as bursitis, arthritis, or synovitis. Although synovial sarcomas are generally a rare occurrence, any detectable mass, swelling, or painful joint should be evaluated by a health care professional. Initially, pain may not be severe, which may delay treatment even more, as the patient may simply take over-the-counter pain relief medications, which can further mask symptoms.
Generally, synovial sarcoma is diagnosed though biopsy, where the suspecting tissue is excised for microscopic examination. In addition, immunohistochemical analysis may be utilized, where part of the tumor is evaluated for antigens and antibodies that are unique to synovial sarcomas. Sometimes, genetic testing may be employed to test for a certain chromosomal abnormality that is common to this type of malignancy. Only after a definitive diagnosis is made can an effective treatment plan be instituted. Typically, treatment depends upon tumor location, size and grade, as well as the patient's age.
Treatment of synovial sarcomas generally include removal of the tumor, radiation and occasionally, chemotherapy. Sometimes, a treatment called brachytherapy may be used, which uses radioactive material placed directly near or into the tumor. This radioactive material can be sealed in needles, seeds, or wires. In addition, a catheter may be used to deliver the treatment to the tumor area. Occasionally, participation in a clinical trial may be a treatment option for certain patients. Treatments using biological therapies may be effective in improving the response of the immune system, rendering it more effective in fighting the cancer.