What is liposarcoma?
Liposarcoma is a very rare type of cancer. It starts in your fat tissue. It can grow
anywhere in your body. The most common places are inside your belly (abdomen), the
thighs, and behind your knee. There are different types of liposarcoma based on how
the cells look under a microscope.
Liposarcomas tend to show up between 50 and 65 years of age.
What causes liposarcoma?
Experts aren’t exactly sure what causes liposarcoma. But it occurs when cells in the
body change and grow out of control. These abnormal cells may grow to form a lump
or mass called a tumor. If the tumor is cancerous, it can grow into (invade) nearby
areas. It can even spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).
Who is at risk for liposarcoma?
A risk factor is anything that may increase your chance of having a disease. The exact
cause of someone’s cancer may not be known. But risk factors can make it more likely
for a person to have cancer. Some risk factors may not be in your control. But others
may be things you can change.
Liposarcomas tend to show up between ages 50 and 65. These risk factors might raise
your risk for cancers that start in the soft tissues (soft tissue sarcomas) such as
Certain genetic syndromes, such as neurofibromatosis and Li-Fraumeni syndrome
Exposure to radiation as treatment for another cancer
Working with certain chemicals. But this link to liposarcoma isn’t clear.
Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors for liposarcoma and what
you can do about them.
What are the symptoms of liposarcoma?
Liposarcoma most often starts in the legs. In most cases, it doesn’t cause symptoms
early on. Sometimes a lump can be seen or felt under your skin. It grows slowly and
is often not painful at first.
Liposarcoma often doesn’t cause symptoms until the cancer has grown for some time.
Symptoms depend on where the tumor is and how big it is. Tumors in the belly can get
big before they cause problems.
As the tumor grows, symptoms may include:
As the tumor grows, liposarcoma in the belly can cause:
Many of these may be caused by other health problems. But it’s important to see your
healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell
if you have cancer.
How is liposarcoma diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask you about your health history, symptoms, risk factors,
and family history of disease. A physical exam will be done.
You may also need one or more of these tests:
Imaging tests. These can find a tumor. They can also show the extent of your cancer and how far
it’s spread. They may include X-rays, an MRI, a CT scan, or an ultrasound.
Biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to confirm cancer. It’s either done by surgery or
with a needle and syringe. Small pieces of tissue are taken out and checked for cancer
After a diagnosis of liposarcoma, you’ll likely need other tests. These help your
healthcare providers learn more about the cancer. They can help determine the stage
of cancer. The stage is how much and how far the cancer has spread (metastasized)
in your body. It’s one of the most important things to know when deciding how to treat
Once your cancer is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what
the stage means for your treatment. Ask your healthcare provider to explain the stage
of your cancer to you in a way you can understand.
How is liposarcoma treated?
Your treatment choices depend on the type of liposarcoma you have, test results, where
the tumor is, the size of the tumor, and the stage of the cancer. The goal of treatment
may be to cure you, control the cancer, or to help ease problems caused by cancer.
Talk with your healthcare team about your treatment choices, the goals of treatment,
and what the risks and side effects may be.
Types of treatment for cancer are either local or systemic. Local treatments remove,
destroy, or control cancer cells in one area. Surgery and radiation are local treatments.
Systemic treatment is used to destroy or control cancer cells that may have traveled
around your body. When taken by pill or injection, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment.
You may have just one treatment or a combination of treatments.
Treatment for liposarcoma may include:
Surgery. This is the most common treatment. Surgery is done to take out the tumor and a healthy
edge of tissue around it.
Radiation. This treatment may be used before surgery to try to shrink the tumor so it can be
removed while sparing nearby organs. If surgery can’t be done, it may help kill cancer
Chemotherapy. Like radiation, this treatment helps shrink or kill cancer cells. It may be used
if surgery can’t be done or the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
Talk with your healthcare providers about your treatment options. Make a list of questions.
Think about the benefits and possible side effects of each option. Talk about your
concerns with your healthcare provider before making a decision.
What are possible complications of liposarcoma?
Liposarcoma is a malignant tumor. This means it can spread to or erode into other
parts of your body. These include vital organs and tissues surrounding the original
tumor. If left untreated, liposarcoma can be life-threatening. Early detection and
treatment are very important.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Liposarcoma is often tricky to spot. See your healthcare provider right away if you
notice a new or unusual lump underneath your skin or anywhere on your body. You should
also see your healthcare provider if you have any of the other symptoms.
Key points about liposarcoma
Liposarcoma is a very rare type of cancer. It starts in your fat tissue.
Having certain genetic syndromes raises a person’s risk for this cancer.
Liposarcoma often doesn’t cause symptoms early on. But sometimes a painless lump that
can be seen or felt develops under the skin.
A biopsy is often needed to diagnose liposarcoma.
Surgery is the most common treatment.
Liposarcoma can spread and be life-threatening if left untreated.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells
At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments,
or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also
know what the side effects are.
Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that
Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.