What is the difference between benign, intermediate, and malignant soft-tissue tumors?

Updated: Dec 03, 2018
  • Author: Vinod B Shidham, MD, FRCPath; Chief Editor: Omohodion (Odion) Binitie, MD  more...
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Benign soft-tissue tumors usually do not recur locally, and if they do, the recurrence is nondestructive and almost always readily curable by complete local excision. Morphologically benign lesions, which are extremely rare, may give rise to distant metastases, which cannot be predicted on the basis of routine, contemporary histologic evaluation. This is best documented in rare, cutaneous benign fibrous histiocytoma.

Intermediate (locally aggressive) soft-tissue tumors show an infiltrative and locally destructive growth pattern. However, although they may recur locally, they do not metastasize. They usually require excision with a wide margin of normal tissue for better local control. The example in this category is desmoid (fibromatosis).

Intermediate (rarely metastasizing) soft-tissue tumors are often locally aggressive, but in some cases, they also have a tendency to produce distant metastases (usually in a lymph node or lung). This risk is low (< 2%), but histomorphologically, it is not reproducibly predictable. The classic examples in this group are plexiform fibrohistiocytic tumor and angiomatoid fibrous histiocytoma.

Malignant soft-tissue sarcomas are locally destructive with the potential to recur. The risk of distant metastasis is significant. (Depending on histologic type and grade, the potential ranges from 20% to almost 100%). Histologically low-grade sarcomas have a lower chance of metastasis (only 2-10%). [34] However, the recurrences of such tumors may advance in grade and attain a higher risk of metastatic potential similar to that associated with myxofibrosarcoma and leiomyosarcoma.

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