Angiosarcoma & Sarcoma: Deadly Cancers of the Liver
Angiosarcoma is a form of sarcoma that is considered a clinically highly variable cancer of the blood vessels. Angiosarcomas are relatively rare, comprising only 1 to 2 percent of sarcomas. The risk of recurrence depends on the stage of disease.
Angiosarcoma of the skin makes up the majority of angiosarcoma cases, usually found on the scalp and face. The most common primary origins for angiosarcomas to form is in the head and neck area, heart, bone, liver, spleen, and breast, frequently years after radiation and breast cancer surgery.
Approximately 25 percent of angiosarcomas are found in deep tissue, and around 8 percent are found in breast tissue. Unlike most sarcomas, which travel via the bloodstream to other organs such as lung or liver, angiosarcomas often travel to lymph nodes.
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Factors that may increase your risk of sarcoma include:
• Inherited syndromes and genetic irregularities
• Previous radiation treatment for other cancers
• Chemical exposure—exposure to certain herbicides, arsenic and dioxins
• Vinyl chloride (a chemical used in making plastics) is a risk factor for developing sarcomas of the liver
• Arsenic has been linked to a type of liver sarcoma
• Exposure to herbicides at high doses (in farm settings) may cause cancer
Age appears to play a factor as well. Studies show peak incidence is in the seventh decade of life.
Symptoms that present will depend on where the cancer originated and if it has spread to other parts of the body. In its early stages, soft tissue sarcomas may not cause any signs and symptoms. However, as the tumor grows, it may cause noticeable lumps or swelling, and pain if the tumor presses on nerves or muscles.
The tumors may grow and spread in an irregular pattern near the surface of the skin, or as masses in soft tissue or other organs. Primary origins of Angiosarcoma commonly include the heart and breast. Approximately 50 percent of Angiosarcomas occur in the head and neck. Angiosarcomas also can originate in the liver, spleen, bone, or brain.
Experts recommend that patients with sarcoma consult a team of doctors, possibly including orthopedic surgeons, oncologists, thoracic surgeons, and radiation specialists. Chemotherapy is standard, though there is no standard regimen after surgical removal of the tumor.
After a sarcoma is found, a treatment plan will be determined based on the type, location, and stage of the cancer, as well as a patient’s overall physical health. Treatment for soft tissue sarcomas include:
• Targeted therapy (anti-angiogenic therapy)
All angiosarcomas tend to be aggressive, difficult to treat, and tend to recur locally, spread widely, and have a high rate of lymph node and systemic metastases. The rate of tumor-related death is high. The overall relative 5-year survival rate of people with soft tissue sarcomas is around 50 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
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