Liposarcoma

Liposarcoma is a comparatively rare form of malignancy or cancer that commence in the fat cells of the body. The cancerous cells are believed to form from fat tissues occurring deep within and not from superficial or shallow fat cells present in the mucous membranes or just under the skin.

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Liposarcoma is regarded as a kind of soft tissue sarcoma. Soft tissues consist of tendons, muscles, fat, connective tissue, nerves, blood vessels, and joint tissue. Soft tissue sarcoma has severe different types and subtypes.

Doctors are not aware of the exact factors or triggers that cause the development of liposarcoma. They are typically diagnosed after a patient visits a doctor upon the development of a ‘hard lump’ which persists. The condition does not form from common lipoma which is a non-malignant tumor that affects fat cells.

Liposarcoma can affect the fat cells present in any region of the body, but is typically prevalent in the abdomen or the limbs’ muscles. The cancer is mostly found in the elderly, but it can also develop at any stage in life. Out of all the new cases of cancer diagnosed, liposarcoma instances are just one percent. It  is usually treated via surgical removal of the cancer. In some cases, radiation therapy may also be used.

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Symptoms of liposarcoma

Liposarcoma does not produce any visible outward symptoms in the early stages and affected feel will not feel sick, ill, or abnormal. It is only later when the tumor grows and pushes away or dislocates the normal structures in the body that a patient will experience the symptoms.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of liposarcoma are listed below:

  • Development of a swelling or a lump in the affected areas. It may or may not cause pain. This is the most prevalent symptom of liposarcoma.
  • Some patients may state that they can feel a mass underneath the skin. When palpated, this mass may be fleshy and soft or firm.
  • Symptoms which often occur during the later stages of the liposarcoma include numbness, painful swelling, fatigue, varicose veins enlargement, nausea, pain in abdomen, reduced range of movement of the limbs, and vomiting.
  • Often, the symptoms tend to differ as per the body region that is affected by the cancer. For example,
    • Liposarcoma in the abdomen can cause constipation, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
    • Liposarcoma affecting the legs, arms, or trunk may cause discomforting swelling in the affected limb.
    • If the uterus is affected, then there may be pain in the lower abdomen or the pelvic region as well as vaginal bleeding.
    • Shortness of breath and coughing are common symptoms of liposarcoma in the chest area.

Types of liposarcoma

Liposarcoma can be classified into 4 subtypes, as listed below:

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  • ‘Well-differentiated liposarcoma’ is the most common form and make up around 50 percent of sarcoma cases/diagnosis.
  • The second kind of liposarcoma is known as round cell liposarcoma and/or myxoid (i.e. like mucus) liposarcoma. It is regarded as an intermediate grade of malignancy which consists of round cell varieties. This type is mostly prevalent in teens and children.
  • Pleomorphic liposarcoma is the third type and affects about 5 to 10 percent of the patients. It is thus quite rare.
  • Mixed-type, combined, or dedifferentiated liposarcoma is the fourth and last type of liposarcoma. It is considered as high-grade cancer that comes with increased susceptibility of metastasis or spreading to other parts of the body.

After the type is determined, doctors will stage the individual cases of liposarcoma to verify the intensity and extent of metastasis at the time of detection. The different stages are IA, IIA, IB, IIB, and III. The cancer with highest metastasis and grade falls in stage III.

Causes

The exact cause of liposarcoma is not known, but experts believe that it may be a combination of environment and genetics. Some of the risk factors which can increase the vulnerability to developing liposarcoma are listed below:

  • Exposure to radiation which can be accidental, therapeutic, or diagnostic.
  • Exposure to some kind of chemicals like polycyclic hydrocarbons; chemicals in wood preservatives and herbicides; and dioxin.
  • A personal history of liver angiosarcoma.
  • Presence of hereditary conditions like neurofibromatosis, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, retinoblastoma, Gardner syndrome, Gorlin syndrome, and Werner syndrome.
  • Underlying HIV infection
  • A malfunction or impaired immune system.

Treatment

Treatment of liposarcoma is dependent on the type and stage of the cancer. Some treatment options are as follows:

  • Surgical removal of the malignant tumor, the surrounding tissues, and adjacent lymph nodes if necessary.
  • External and/or internal radiation therapy to destroy the cancer cells which could not be surgically removed.
  • The use of chemotherapy for liposarcoma is a subject of debate. Doctors usually opt for chemotherapy on an individual basis.

Liposarcoma – survival rates and prognosis

Prognosis of liposarcoma differs as per the stage, location, and type. 5-year survival rates also differ from 56 percent to 100 percent as per histological subtype.

Properly treated instances of myxoid type cancers as well as those affecting the extremities have a good prognosis. Radiation therapy and surgical treatment of well-differentiated tumors rarely spread and come with just a 10 percent recurrence rate. The 5-year survival rate for poorly differentiated cell and round-cell type tumors is around 50 percent.

 

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