Soft Tissue Masses — What Is This Lump?

Soft tissue masses — or tumors — are fairly common and can vary significantly depending on their location and type. They can develop nearly anywhere in your body, including within or between ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. You can also have soft tissue masses grow around other structures in your body, such as bones, nerves, or muscles. When this occurs, the tumor can impact their function. 

At Surgical Associates of North Texas, in McKinney, Texas, Scott A. deVilleneuve, MD, and our team regularly perform soft tissue surgeries, including those to remove lipomas and sebaceous cysts. Dr. deVilleneuve offers these insights into soft tissue masses and what to do if you find a lump.

Recognizing soft tissue masses

Tumors develop when abnormal cells in your body grow out of control, forming a mass. They can grow slowly or quickly. When they appear in the soft tissue, they can often seem round, oval, or sausage-shaped, but soft tissue masses can also be confused with general swelling. 

The first sign of a soft tissue tumor is usually a lump, bump, or swelling. This kind of growth is typically painless, but it can cause discomfort if it gets larger and irritates or compresses surrounding tissue. In some cases, a rapid growth rate of a mass — or having pain — can indicate a more serious tumor. 

Soft tissue masses can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (sarcomas). Because of this, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible whenever you notice a mass, especially if it’s painful to touch.

Benign soft tissue masses

Benign masses occur approximately 100 times more often than sarcomas. The two most common types of benign soft tissue masses include lipomas and sebaceous cysts.


These growths are made of fat cells and usually grow slowly. Lipomas often move slightly under the skin when pressed and feel soft to the touch. They can occur anywhere on your body with fat, including:

You can also develop lipomas in muscles, bones, or organs, but these occur with less frequency.

Sebaceous cysts

When you have this type of mass, your growth forms out of your sebaceous gland, which produces oil. As a result, sebaceous cysts can contain liquid or semiliquid material, and they usually form on the face, torso, or neck.

Cancerous soft tissue masses

There are more than 50 kinds of soft tissue sarcomas, some of which are more likely in children and others that are more common in adults. Like benign soft tissue masses, sarcomas can develop anywhere in the body, but they’re more frequently seen in the abdomen, arms, and legs.

In the early stages, you may not have obvious signs of a soft tissue sarcoma, but they can eventually cause a visible lump, swelling, or pain, if pressed. These types of cancers are less common, but they can spread to other parts of your body and be life-threatening, so it’s essential to get medical treatment as soon as possible.

Treating soft tissue masses

Not all soft tissue masses require medical intervention. However, it’s crucial to get a diagnosis to determine the next steps. If surgery is indicated, treatment involves excision of the mass to ensure the removal of all the abnormal cells.

Dr. deVilleneuve might recommend surgery if your tumor:

Whenever possible, Dr. deVilleneuve uses the most advanced laparoscopic and minimally invasive surgical techniques available in his state-of-the-art facility to reduce the risk of surgical complications or damage to healthy surrounding tissue.

If you have a lump you haven’t noticed before, don’t ignore it. Book an appointment online or over the phone with Surgical Associates of North Texas today.

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