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Liposarcoma

  • Liposarcoma is a malignant soft tissue tumor that develops in fat tissue. It’s most often found in the abdominal cavity or extremities, usually the thigh or upper arm, but they can be found anywhere in the body.Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center provides comprehensive medical and surgical care for children and adolescents with benign or malignant bone and soft tissue tumors.

    • Liposarcoma does not usually spread beyond its local location.
    • Its cause is unknown but has been linked to genetics and inherited diseases.
    • A tumor may exist for a long time before being discovered.
    • Treatment usually involves surgery and potentially radiation.

    How Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center approaches liposarcoma

    Our multidisciplinary approach to care ensures in-depth discussion of each case and personalized treatment plans for every patient. We integrate expertise from the following specialists:

    • pediatric oncologists, surgical oncologists and radiation oncologists
    • pediatric experts from every medical subspecialty, such as orthopedics, ophthalmology, physical therapy and radiology, among others
    • highly skilled and experienced pediatric oncology nurses
    • child life specialists, psychologists, social workers and resource specialists who provide supportive care before, during and after treatment

    We are conducting numerous research studies to help better understand and treat soft tissue sarcomas.

    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Ave
    Fegan 2
    Boston MA 02115 

    617-355-6021
    fax: 617-730-0456 

  • What is liposarcoma?

    Liposarcoma is a malignant soft tissue tumor that develops in fat tissue. It’s most often found in the abdominal cavity or extremities, usually the thigh or upper arm, but they can be found anywhere in the body.

    What causes liposarcoma?

    The exact cause of liposarcoma is not entirely understood, however, studies have indicated that genetics may play a role in the formation of all soft tissue sarcomas. In addition:

    • Researchers have studied a small number of families that contain several members of one generation who have developed soft tissue sarcomas.
    • Limited studies have shown a possible link between soft tissue sarcomas and the development of other types of cancer.
    • Some inherited diseases have also been linked with an increased risk of developing soft tissue sarcomas such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome or neurofibromatosis.
    • There seems to be a link between liposarcoma and Epstein-Barr virus infection.

    Isliposarcoma common?

    As a group, soft tissue sarcomas (other than rhabdomysarcoma, which is slightly more common) account for less than 1 percent of all new cancer cases each year and 3 percent of all childhood tumors.

    What are the symptoms of liposarcoma?

    Because soft tissue sarcomas affect tissue that is elastic and easily moved, a tumor may exist for a long time before being discovered, growing large and pushing aside surrounding tissue. Symptoms vary greatly with the size, location and spread of the tumor, but may include:

    • painless swelling or mass anywhere on the body
    • pain or soreness caused by compressed nerves or muscles
    • limping or other difficulty using the legs, feet, arms or hands
    • diminished range of motion in the affected area
  • How does a doctor know that it’s liposarcoma?

    Diagnostic procedures for liposarcoma are used to determine the exact type of tumor your child has and whether the tumor has spread. These may include a:

    • Physical exam, including neurologic function tests including: reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness.
    • X-rays, which produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which produces detailed images of organs and structures within the body and/or spine.
    • Computerized tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) to capture a detailed view of the body, in some cases.
    • Biopsy or tissue sample from the tumor to provide definitive information about the type of tumor; this is collected during surgery.
    • Bone scan to detect bone diseases and tumors as well as to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.
    • Complete blood count (CBC), which measures size, number and maturity of different blood cells in a specific volume of blood.
    • Blood tests including blood chemistries
  • How far the tumor has spread and how aggressive it is helps doctors decide what form of treatment is best. In most cases, liposarcoma does not spread beyond its local location. Treatment options will vary greatly, depending on your child's situation. Your child's doctor and other members of your care team will discuss the options with you in-depth. Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best prognosis.

    Traditional treatments for liposarcoma

    Surgery to remove the entire tumor along with surrounding healthy tissue to ensure there are no remaining cancer cells is the best treatment for liposarcoma in children. Radiation may also be used if surgery is not effective on its own.

    Treatment may include some combination of the following:

    Surgery

    Depending on the size and location of the tumor, your child may either need:

    • Limb-salvage surgery, which helps preserve the limb by removing the tumor and wide margins of healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
    • Amputation may be necessary if the tumor cannot be removed (for example, if it involves the nerves and blood vessels).

    Radiation therapy

    Our doctors use precisely targeted and dosed radiation to kill cancer cells left behind after your child's surgery. Because of risks associated with high doses of radiation in young children, radiation is used only if surgery alone is ineffective

    Supportive Care

    This is any type of treatment to prevent and treat infections, side effects of treatments, and complications, and to keep your child comfortable during treatment.

    What is the recommended long-term care for children treated for liposarcoma?

    Children treated for liposarcoma should visit a survivorship clinic every year to:

    • manage disease complications
    • screen for early recurrence of cancer
    • manage late effects of treatment

    A typical follow-up visit may include some or all of the following:

    • a physical exam
    • laboratory testing
    • imaging scans

    Through the David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, childhood cancer survivors receive a comprehensive follow-up evaluation from their cancer care team.

    • Our childhood cancer survivorship clinic is held weekly.
    • In addition to meeting with your pediatric oncologists, your child may see one of our endocrinologists, cardiologists, neurologists, neuro-psychologists or alternative/complementary therapy specialists.
    • We also offer the following services:
      • patient and family education
      • psychosocial assessment
      • genetic counseling
      • reproductive and fertility evaluation and counseling
      • opportunities to speak with other childhood cancer survivors
  • Summary

    Boston Children's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are also conducting numerous research studies to help better understand and treat soft tissue sarcomas.

    Research underway

    Types of treatment currently being studied include:

    • Angiogenesis inhibitors, substances that may be able to prevent the growth of tumors.
    • Biological therapies, a wide range of substances that may be able to involve the body's own immune system to fight cancer or lessen harmful side effects of some treatments.
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The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
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