How Common Is Liposarcoma?

A rare type of cancer, liposarcoma develops in the body's connective tissues. Liposarcoma affects about 2,000 people each year, and is more prevalent in men than women.
A rare type of cancer, liposarcoma develops in the body's connective tissues. Liposarcoma affects about 2,000 people each year, and is more prevalent in men than women.

Liposarcoma is a rare type of cancer that develops in connective tissues that resemble fat cells. It can occur in almost any part of the body, but more than half of liposarcoma cases develop in the thigh, and up to one-third affect the abdominal cavity. 

Liposarcoma affects about 2,000 people each year in the U.S., and accounts for about 18% of all soft tissue sarcomas.

It is more common in men than in women, and tends to affect people aged 50 to 65 years. It is extremely rare in children, and if it does occur it is usually during adolescence. 

What Are Symptoms of Liposarcoma?

Liposarcoma may have no signs or symptoms, especially early in the disease. When signs and symptoms of liposarcoma occur, they may include: 

  • A lump that may be soft or firm to the touch
    • Lump is usually painless and slow growing
    • Swelling or numbness in the area around the lump
  • If the tumor is in the abdomen:
    • Abdominal pain or cramping
    • Abdominal swelling
    • Flank (side) pain
    • Feeling full soon after eating
    • Constipation 
    • Blood in the stool (may appear as black or tarry stool)
    • Blood in vomit
  • Non-specific symptoms

What Causes Liposarcoma?

The cause of liposarcoma is unknown. 

Risk factors for developing liposarcoma include: 

  • Certain genetic syndromes
  • Familial cancer syndromes
  • Prior exposure to radiation from treatment for another cancer
  • Long-term exposure to some toxic chemicals, such as vinyl chloride, a chemical used to make plastic
  • Damaged lymph system


How Is Liposarcoma Diagnosed?

Liposarcoma is diagnosed with a physical examination and patient history. Tests used to help confirm a diagnosis of liposarcoma include: 

What Is the Treatment for Liposarcoma?

Treatment for liposarcoma depends on the type, size, and location of the tumor. Treatment for liposarcoma includes: 

  • Surgery
    • Main treatment for primary liposarcomas that have not yet spread to other organs
    • Involves removal of the tumor and a wide margin of healthy surrounding tissue 
  • Combination of surgery and radiation therapy
    • Radiation therapy may be used before, during, or after surgery to destroy tumor cells and reduce the chance of the tumor recurring in the same location
    • The combination of surgery and radiation therapy can prevent tumor recurrence at the surgical site in about 85-90% of cases
  • Chemotherapy
    • May be used in when patients have a high risk of recurrence or already have widespread disease
  • Immunotherapy drugs (investigational)
    • Checkpoint inhibitors 
    • T cell therapy