What is liposarcoma?
Liposarcoma is a cancerous (neoplastic) tumor that grows in the soft tissues of the body (fat tissue). It usually forms in the abdomen or in the arms and legs, although these tumors can be found anywhere in the body. What causes liposarcoma? Scientists don’t know for certain the exact cause of these tumors, although there is some evidence that genetic mutations may contribute to causing these tumors. There are some conditions that may dispose an individual to developing a liposarcoma. Li-Fraumani syndrome, neurofibromatosis, and the Epstein-Barr virus have been implicated in liposarcoma. What symptoms might my child experience with liposarcoma? Tumors may not be discovered until they are quite large, and begin to press on organs and structures around them. Symptoms you or your child may notice include:
– a swelling or lump not associated with pain – pain in the affected area if the tumor presses on nerves or muscles – a limp if the liposarcoma is in the leg – a decreased ability to use an affected limb (arm or leg)
How is the diagnosis of liposarcoma made? If your physician suspects your child has liposarcoma, he/she may:
– perform a thorough history and physical – perform a biopsy on the suspect area-this serves a dual purpose, diagnosis of the tumor and determining how the tumor should be treated – order other tests, such as an x-ray, MRI or CT of the affected area-MRI’s and CT scans are special imaging tests that can visualize tissues and structures in greater detail than regular x-rays – order certain blood tests, such as a complete blood count and other blood studies What is staging of liposarcoma?
Staging is the process by which physicians determine the characteristics of the tumor, and whether or not the tumor has spread to other parts of the body. Staging assists physicians in planning how to treat liposarcoma. What does treatment for liposarcoma consist of?
You may expect that several physicians will be involved in your child’s treatment. Your child may be seen by a pediatric oncologist (a physician who specializes in pediatric cancer), an orthopedic surgeon, (a surgeon who specializes in surgery affecting bones) and a radiotherapist (a physician who specializes in treating cancer with radiation). Surgery is performed to remove the tumor. A wide area of tissue around the tumor is also taken, to ensure that all the cancer is removed. When liposarcoma is found in a limb, surgeons will attempt to spare the limb; however, in some cases amputation will be necessary. When this happens, the child is fitted with prosthesis immediately, sometimes even before surgery is done. Radiation is sometimes used as an adjunct to surgery, in an effort to ensure that no cancer cells remain, or in the event of metastases (tumor spread to other areas of the body). Chemotherapy is not used in liposarcoma as a rule, although studies are underway to determine if chemotherapy will some day play a role in treating liposarcoma.
What happens after treatment for liposarcoma?
After treatment is completed, your child will be followed for some time to ensure that there is no recurrence of the disease. Follow-up tests and exams may continue for months or years after treatment has been completed. There are support groups for parents who are experiencing the same fears that you are facing. Becoming involved with one of these groups, or asking for a referral for support for you and your family may help you to deal with your feelings.