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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 it can be found anywhere in the body. Liposarcoma tumors can exist for a long time before they are discovered and does not usually spread beyond its local location. The cause of this tumor is unknown but has been linked to genetics and inherited diseases. Liposarcoma is very rare in children, and is much more likely to occur in an adult.

The three primary subtypes of liposarcoma include well-differentiated (low-grade tumors that may recur locally but don’t spread), myxoid and pleomorphic, which are aggressive and highly-malignant.

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. Liposarcoma 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 we care for liposarcoma

Children with liposarcoma are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors Program. Our integrated pediatric oncology program offers the combined expertise of a leading cancer center and a world-renown children’s hospital.

Liposarcoma | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is liposarcoma diagnosed?

In addition to a physical examination, a doctor may order the following to diagnose a liposarcoma:

After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.

What are the treatment options for liposarcoma?

The treatment often depends on how far the disease has spread and how aggressive it is. Standard treatment is surgery to remove the entire tumor along with surrounding healthy tissue to ensure that no cancer cells remain. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used only if surgery alone is ineffective.

Local recurrence of the disease following surgical resection is common and may be avoided with adjuvant radiation therapy. The risk of recurrence increases with high-grade tumors.

What is the long-term outlook for children with liposarcoma?

Survival rates for liposarcoma vary widely depending on the subtype. Myxoid tumors have a five-year survival rate of 80 percent, while aggressive pleomorphic tumors can have a five-year survival rate closer to 20 percent.

Children treated for liposarcoma should visit a cancer survivorship clinic every year in order 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 our David B. Perini Jr. Quality of Life Clinic, childhood cancer survivors receive a comprehensive follow-up evaluation from their cancer care team.

Liposarcoma | Programs & Services