What is Liposarcoma?

Liposarcoma is a cancer that originates in deep layers of fat tissue instead of superficial cells underneath the epidermis. Liposarcoma can be found in many locations, but it is especially prevalent in the limbs and the abdomen.

There is no known cause of soft tissue sarcomas, but there are factors that can increase the risk of development. For example, those with chronic lymphedema are at an increased risk for this cancer.

Some inhereted conditions, like Li-Fraumeni syndrome, can increase the risk of cancer development. If a person has had radiation treatment for other cancers, that could cause a liposarcoma to develop.

What are the Symptoms of Liposarcoma?

A person may be asymptomatic until later into the disease. One of the first symptoms is a soft or fleshy mass that can be felt in the skin; image testing and a biopsy can confirm the cancer.

Some other symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling at the site, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, numbness, a decreased range of motion in legs or arms, and pain if a nerve, vessel, or muscle is compressed.

Liposarcoma Causes

The direct causal factors for liposarcoma are still unknown. Doctors do know that liposarcoma results from the formation of fat cell errors or mutations in the individual’s genetic code. The mutations cause the cell to thrive where it would normally die and, in many cases, may even instruct the cell to continue to multiply. As the cells accumulate, they come together to form a tumor. There are several types of liposarcoma developed from this process. In some forms, the liposarcoma stays in one location, while other types of liposarcoma may spread to other parts of the body.

Liposarcoma most often occurs in the muscles of the limbs or in the abdomen, though the tumors can develop anywhere fat cells are present. The condition most commonly affects older adults, though individuals can be affected at any age. The presence of a liposarcoma tumor may first be noticed by experiencing swelling, pain, or weakness in the affected area.

How is Liposarcoma Treated?

The goal of treatment is to completely remove the liposarcoma””or as much as is safely possible””with surgery so that its recurrence is mitigated. If the liposarcoma has metastasized, then chemotherapy or radiation therapy can be used. In rare cases, a person’s limb may need to be amputated.

Liposarcoma Prevention

As the cause of liposarcoma is still being researched, there’s no known way to prevent the tumors from developing. While prevention is impossible at this point, treatment is fairly straightforward in most cases. The tumor is removed through surgical procedures. During the operation, the surgeon will remove the tissue and a large portion of healthy tissue surrounding the tumor to ensure all affected areas have been removed. While tumors in the arms and legs can usually be removed without affecting the functionality of the limb, amputation may be necessary in 5% of the cases.

Secondary prevention, or prevention of a recurrence, is possible through a combination of surgery and radiation therapy. Depending on the specific subtype of sarcoma, these treatments are 85-90% effective in preventing a recurrence. The radiation therapy, administered after surgery, reduces the risk of tumor cells returning in the affected area and also kills any tumor cells missed by the surgeon.

Last Reviewed:
October 06, 2016
Last Updated:
March 12, 2018