Liposarcoma is a type of cancer that occurs in fat cells in the body, most often in the muscles of the limbs or the abdomen.
Liposarcoma is a rare type of cancer that begins in the fat cells. Liposarcoma is considered a type of soft tissue sarcoma.
Liposarcoma can occur in fat cells in any part of the body, but most cases occur in the muscles of the limbs or in the abdomen. Liposarcoma occurs most often in older adults, though it can occur at any age.
Treatment for liposarcoma typically involves surgery to remove the cancer. Other treatments, such as radiation therapy, also may be used.
Liposarcoma signs and symptoms vary depending on the part of the body where the cancer forms.
Liposarcoma that forms in the arms and legs can cause:
- A growing lump of tissue under your skin
- Weakness of the affected limb
Liposarcoma that forms in the abdomen can cause:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal swelling
- Feeling full sooner when eating
- Blood in stool
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you.
Tests and procedures used in liposarcoma diagnosis include:
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may recommend imaging tests to determine the size and extent of your liposarcoma. Tests may include X-ray, CT scan and MRI.
- Removing a sample of tissue for testing. During a biopsy procedure, your doctor removes a small sample of tissue to test for cancer cells. Your tumor’s location determines how the tissue sample is removed.
- Using advanced lab tests to determine the kinds of cells involved in the cancer. Doctors who specialize in analyzing blood and body tissue (pathologists) will study your biopsy samples using specialized laboratory tests, such as immunohistochemistry, cytogenetic analysis, fluorescence in situ hybridization and molecular genetic testing. These tests provide information about your liposarcoma that helps your doctor determine your prognosis and your treatment options.
Treatments for liposarcoma include:
- Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove all of the cancer cells. Whenever possible, surgeons work to remove the entire liposarcoma.
If a liposarcoma grows to involve nearby organs, removal of the entire liposarcoma may not be possible. In those situations, your doctor may recommend other treatments to shrink the liposarcoma to make it easier to remove during an operation.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses powerful energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells. Radiation may be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that remain. Radiation may also be used before surgery to shrink a tumor in order to make it more likely that surgeons can remove the entire tumor.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Not all types of liposarcoma are sensitive to chemotherapy drugs. Careful analysis of your cancer cells by an expert pathologist can determine whether chemotherapy is likely to help you.
Chemotherapy may be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that remain or before surgery to shrink a tumor. Chemotherapy is sometimes combined with radiation therapy.
- Clinical trials. Clinical trials are studies of new treatments. Clinical trials might give you a chance to try the latest treatments, such as new types of chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs. Ask your doctor whether you qualify for any clinical trials.