Liposarcoma (patient information)

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What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?


When to seek urgent medical care?

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Liposarcoma?


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

Liposarcoma On the Web

Ongoing Trials at Clinical

Images of Liposarcoma

Videos on Liposarcoma

FDA on Liposarcoma

CDC on Liposarcoma

Liposarcoma in the news

Blogs on Liposarcoma

Directions to Hospitals Treating Liposarcoma

Risk calculators and risk factors for Liposarcoma

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] ; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Ammu Susheela, M.D. [2]


Liposarcoma is a malignant tumor that can arise from the adipose tissue of any part of the body. It would be asymptomatic initially and gradually progresses. Clinical symptoms and signs depends on the location of the cancer. After investigations, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy or a combination of them are the options for treating liposarcoma. General prognosis is not good

What are the symptoms of Liposarcoma?

Liposarcoma is asymtpomatic in intial stage. As it progresses, depending on the location, following symptoms may be found.

  • Swelling/Lump at any part of your body. It may be soft or firm and usually slow growing.
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stools
  • Blood in vomitus
  • Abdominal pain
  • Urinary disturbances
  • Breathing difficulties

What causes Liposarcoma?

The cause of liposarcoma is unknown. Although liposarcoma can arise after a trauma, a benign lump may also cause liposarcoma

Who is at highest risk?

Research has indicated that liposarcoma can develop due to several factors.

  • Radiation : People who have been exposed to radiation therapy for other types of cancer such as lymphoma, breast cancer has increased risk of developing liposarcoma in the area treated with radiation.
  • Genetics: Some genetic diseases may increase the risk of developing liposarcoma, like the following.
  • Exposure to chemicals such as given below may increase the risk of developing liposarcoma.
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Arsenic
  • Thorium dioxide(Thorotrast)

How to know you have liposarcoma?

A physical examination by the doctor is one of the first processes in diagnosing the disease. A deep seated large swelling which is firm and fixed to underlying structure should arise suspicion.

  • X-ray: Plain x-ray may be done to see the tumor and the adjacent areas. It is usually done in case the tumor is in chest, abdomen or limbs or bones. It helps to understand whether tumor has damaged the bone or spread to other areas.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is the most sensitive test for the diagnosis of liposarcoma. It could be a needle biopsy or surgical biopsy. In needle biopsy, the doctor usually performs a punch biopsy and removes a tiny round piece of tissue using needle or a small tool. For bigger tissues, an incision may be made and surgical biopsy is used. The sample is sent to a lab where the pathologists can detect the tissues under the microscope and identify the type.
  • Computed tomographyCT scan and biopsy: Local CT scans are often used to diagnose soft tissue sarcoma. A CT machine takes multiple images of your body and various organs to check for tumor and extent of spread. A dye may be injected to visualize better and take clearer images. Inform the doctor if there is a prior allergy to the contrast dye. CAT scan confirm the location of the cancer and show the organs nearby. These are helpful for determining the stage of the cancer and in determining whether surgery is a good treatment option. CT scans can also be used to guide biopsy and a biopsy sample is usually removed and looked at under a microscope.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI uses magnetic fields but it is a different type of image than what is produced by computed tomography (CT) and produces detailed images of the body. The magnets and the computer takes multiple pictures of your body with the tumor and helps to visualize the organs, blood vessels, bones, soft tissues and helps in diagnosing accurately. Like computed tomography (CT), a contrast agent may be injected into a patient’s vein to create a better picture. Inform the doctor if you have prior contrast dye allergy. Do not wear metals while undergoing the proceedure as metals can cause injury.
  • Positron emission tomography(PET) scan: When doing this test, a small amount of a radioactive medium is injected into your body and absorbed by the organs or tissues. This radioactive substance gives off energy which in turn is used to produce the images. PET can provide more helpful information than either CT or MRI scans. It is useful to see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and it is also useful for your doctor to locate where the cancer has spread. Inform the caregiver if you had prior contrast allergy.
  • Whole Bone Scan: The goal of a whole body bone scan is to show if a cancer has metastasized to your bones.

When to seek urgent medical care?

Call your doctor if any symptoms of liposarcoma develop. If you experience either of the following symptoms, seeking urgent medical care as soon as possible:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • DIfficult to speak
  • Not able to move limb
  • Pain or loss of sensation in and around the area of the tumor

Treatment options

Patients with liposarcoma have many treatment options. The selection depends on the stage of the tumor. The options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these methods. Before treatment starts, ask your health care team about possible side effects and how treatment may change your normal activities. Because cancer treatments often damage healthy cells and tissues, side effects are common. Side effects may not be the same for each person, and they may change from one treatment session to the next.

  • Surgery: The selection of surgery depends on patient's cancer stage and general health. If permitted, the surgeons prefer surgery for your liposarcoma if the tumor hasnt spread to the other organs. Tumor with a wide area of margin is removed. Sometimes amputation of the involved limbs might be required to help the patient to regain a functional life. A graft could be used to reduce the damage of skin in surgery.
  • Radiation therapy: This is a cancer treatment to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing by using high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation.
  • Chemotherapy: The treatment is to use drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. The chemotherapy drugs might be given before surgery to shrink the tumor and after the surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells. The side effects of chemotherapy must be understood before treatment.

Treatment must be followed by regular follow up with physical examination and imaging studies thoughout the patient's life.

Where to find medical care for Liposarcoma?

Directions to Hospitals Treating Liposarcoma

Prevention of Liposarcoma

As the cause of liposarcoma is unknown, no specific preventive measures have been documented.

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

The prognosis of liposarcoma is poor and it depends on the following:

  • The patient’s general health
  • Type of liposarcoma
  • Location of the liposarcoma
  • How fast it is growing or dividing
  • The stage of the sarcoma: the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread outside the location
  • Whether the sarcoma has just been diagnosed or has recurred
  • Whether or not the tumor can be removed by surgery

Possible complications

Even with treatment the tumor can grow back, spread or worsen the symptoms which can be life threatening.


National Library of Medicine

American Cancer Society

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