Primary Thoracic Sarcomas

Gregory W. Gladish, MD ; Bradley M. Sabloff, MD ; Reginald F. Munden, DMD, MD ; Mylene T. Truong, MD ; Jeremy J. Erasmus, MD ; Marvin H. Chasen, MD

Primary sarcomas of the thorax are rare. The diagnosis is established only after sarcomalike primary lung malignancies and metastatic disease have been excluded. Primary sarcomas of the thorax are classified according to their histologic features and constitute a large group of tumors that occur in the lung, mediastinum, pleura, and chest wall. Angiosarcoma, leiomyosarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and mesothelioma (sarcomatoid variant) are the most common primary intrathoracic sarcomas. Ewing sarcoma, primitive neuroectodermal tumor, chondrosarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma, osteosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, and fibrosarcoma usually arise in the chest wall. Although primary thoracic sarcomas commonly manifest as large, heterogeneous masses, they have a wide spectrum of radiologic manifestations, including solitary pulmonary nodules, central endobronchial tumors, and intraluminal masses within the pulmonary arteries. The different histologic types of sarcomas are frequently indistinguishable at radiologic analysis. However, differences in clinical presentation and the location of the tumor, as well as morphologic features such as calcification within the mass and rib involvement, can be useful in suggesting the appropriate diagnosis. For example, a large rib mass in a child with fever and malaise indicates a Ewing sarcoma, a mass with a calcified matrix is likely a chondrosarcoma or osteosarcoma, and a pulmonary artery mass is likely a leiomyosarcoma.