Nearly all relevant maxillofacial malignancies and / or relevant aspects of other malignancies we describe and discuss either in several dedicated sections or as part of other sections on this website:
- mouth cancer
- facial skin cancer
- salivary gland cancer
- bone cancer
- cancers of the blood and lymphatic system
- metastases (to and from the maxillofacial region).
This leaves a group of rare, soft tissue malignancies; soft tissue sarcomas. A sarcoma is a malignant growth that originates from cells that were formed from the mesenchyme, an undifferentiated connective tissue that is present during early foetal development (carcinoma refers to a malignant growth that arises from epithelial cells (cells in the tissues that line the surfaces and cavities of the body and its organs)). The musculoskeletal system and connective tissues include cancellous bone, cartilage, fatty tissue cells, all three types of muscle, nerve structures and blood and lymph vessels. Accordingly, soft tissue sarcomas are seen in all parts of the body, including the maxillofacial region.
Soft tissue makes up the bulk of our bodies, yet soft tissue sarcomas are rare malignancies (estimated less than 3 % of all malignancies). The majority (80 to 90 %) of malignancies are carcinomas, with malignancies of the blood and lymphatic system accounting for approximately 5 to 10 %. Despite it being a rare malignancy, there are many different varieties of sarcomas.
Soft tissue sarcomas seen in the maxillofacial region include
- liposarcoma (originating from fat tissue; the most common in the maxillofacial region)
- leiomyosarcoma (originating from smooth muscle cells; overall the most common sarcoma)
- rhabdomyosarcoma (originating from skeletal (striated) muscle cells, mostly in children (third most common solid tumour in children) but occurs at all ages)
- angiosarcoma (originating from blood or lymph vessels)
- Kaposi sarcoma (affecting mainly skin and mouth, caused by human herpes virus HHV8; people with advanced HIV infection or fully developed AIDS are most vulnerable)
- malignant nerve sheath tumours (neurofibrosarcoma and malignant schwannoma; originate from fatty tissue cells that cover nerves; may be related to / develop from benign tumours of nerve tissue).
Next section: Other tumours