Is Liposarcoma Life Threatening?

Reviewed on 4/15/2021

Liposarcoma can be life-threatening, but it depends on the type. Well-differentiated liposarcoma has a 100% 5-year survival rate, and most myxoid types have 88% 5-year survival rates. Round-cell and dedifferentiated liposarcomas have a 5-year survival rate of about 50%.
Liposarcoma can be life-threatening, but it depends on the type. Well-differentiated liposarcoma has a 100% 5-year survival rate, and most myxoid types have 88% 5-year survival rates. Round-cell and dedifferentiated liposarcomas have a 5-year survival rate of about 50%.

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 involve the abdominal cavity. 

Liposarcoma can be life-threatening, depending on the type. There are five main types of liposarcomas.

Types of Liposarcomas
Type Symptoms
Well-differentiated liposarcoma
  • The most common subtype 
  • Usually starts as a low-grade tumor and tends to grow and change slowly
  • Often presents as a large painless mass found in deeper tissues and in the space behind the abdominal cavity (retroperitoneum)
Dedifferentiated liposarcoma
  • Occurs when a low-grade tumor changes, and the newer cells are high-grade

Myxoid liposarcoma
  • Intermediate to high-grade tumor
Round cell liposarcoma
  • Can grow faster than well-differentiated tumors
  • Often found in the arms or legs
Pleomorphic liposarcoma 
  • The rarest subtype 
  • A high-grade tumor 
  • Has a high rate of recurrence and poor outcomes

Life expectancy for liposarcoma is often expressed in 5-year survival rates, that is, how many people will be alive 5 years after diagnosis. 

Well-differentiated liposarcoma has a 100% 5-year survival rate, and most myxoid types have 88% 5-year survival rates. 

However, round-cell and dedifferentiated liposarcomas have a poor prognosis, with both having a 5-year survival rate of about 50% because they recur locally and tend to spread (metastasize) quickly and widely.

What Are the Symptoms of Liposarcoma?

Liposarcoma may have no symptoms. When 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
    • Constipation 
    • Feeling full soon after eating
    • Blood in the stool, which 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
  • Exposure to radiation during treatment for another cancer
  • Exposure to some chemicals
  • Damaged lymph system

How Is Liposarcoma Diagnosed?

Liposarcoma is diagnosed with a physical examination and other testing. Tests used to help confirm the diagnosis include: 

SLIDESHOW

Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images See Slideshow

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 (metastasized) to other organs
    • Surgical removal of the tumor, along with a wide margin of healthy tissue around it
    • Amputation of a limb may be performed in about 5% of cases to completely remove the cancer 
    • Complete surgical removal of tumors within the abdomen is difficult
  • 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 recurrence
  • Chemotherapy
    • May be used when patients have a high risk of recurrence or already have widespread disease
    • Erybulin mesylate (Halaven) targets a specific step in cell division that prevents cells from dividing and ultimately destroys tumor cells
    • Trabectedin (Yondelis) works similarly by interfering with the gene repair mechanism of tumor cells
  • Investigational therapies: immunotherapy drugs 
    • Checkpoint inhibitors block specific receptors on cells and release a natural brake on immune cells, so they can activate and target cancer-specific cells
      • Examples of checkpoint inhibitors include ipilimumab (Yervoy), nivolumab (Opdivo), and pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
    • T cell therapy removes healthy T cells from the body and modifying them to recognize and attack cancer cells based on specific cell markers 

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Reviewed on 4/15/2021
References
http://sarcomahelp.org/liposarcoma.html

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/liposarcoma/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/sarcoma/liposarcoma

https://www.medscape.com/answers/1102007-121918/what-is-the-prognosis-of-liposarcoma