Sarcomas are soft-tissue neoplasms that can present themselves almost anywhere in the body. Some 70 tumor subtypes compose the sarcoma umbrella and each carries with it unique effects, treatments, and prognostic factors.
The word sarcoma is a slanted adaptation of the Greek word sarkoma, which means “fleshy growth”. These tumors account for about 0.7% of cancer cases in the United States, making them a relatively uncommon disease.
An angiosarcoma is a rare, malignant subtype of sarcoma that describes a wide array of neoplasms that originate in blood vessels and the linings of various blood-filled sites throughout the body. This sarcoma subtype is an aggressive cancer with a strong tendency to recur locally. Furthermore, this cancer often spreads quickly throughout the body, including metastasis in the lymphatic system. Prognosis is usually poor.
Angiosarcoma Symptoms and Features
The most common locations for angiosarcomas are the breasts, skin, deep tissue, and the liver. These tumors, however, have the ability to occur almost anywhere. Most cutaneous angiosarcomas (angiosarcomas of the skin) are found on the face and scalp.
It is estimated that 60% of all angriosarcomas are of the cutaneous variety. Another 25% of these growths are called soft-tissue angiosarcomas. 8% are angiosarcomas of the breast. Between 1 and 2% of all sarcomas are of the angiosarcoma subtype.
Learn more about the symptoms of angiosarcoma.
Angiosarcoma Common Risk Factor
- Chemical Exposure: Angiosarcomas can develop in the absence of an inciting cause, but certain high-risk materials have been shown to affect the presence of this cancer. These materials include, but are not limited to, vinyl chloride, thorium dioxide, and arsenic.
Angiosarcoma Common Symptoms
Physicians, when looking for an angiosarcoma, may consider the following symptoms and indicators of the disease:
- Skin Lesions
- Bone Pain
- Anemia: A disorder characterized by low levels of a molecule called hemoglobin in the red blood cells.
- A Growth: A lump or swelling located beneath or on the surface of the skin.
- Pain: Pains ranging from dull aches to stabbing sensations.
Little or nothing is often ascertained through blood work regarding the detection of angiosarcoma. To locate and determine the extent of the tumor’s growth, technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT scan), radiography, and bone scanning are employed. An analysis of the results from these imaging technologies is the primary diagnostic tool for physicians looking for angiosarcomas.
Angiosarcomas develop so gradually that they are often well established by the time of diagnosis. Diseases such as this are defined by the term insidious. Furthermore, this sarcoma subtype does not respond well to most traditional angiosarcoma treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, steroid administration, and a variety of commonly employed drug therapies.
To amplify the complications associated with angiosarcoma, only 20 to 60 cases are diagnosed annually. Thus, the combination of aggressive growth, few treatment options, and extreme rarity makes angiosarcoma one of the deadliest cancers.
This cancer is rarely detected early in its development, but when early detection occurs, such cases may respond well to surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Even so, most treatments of this cancer are not intended to be curative. Medications are often prescribed to reduce symptoms such as fatigue, anemia, and pains. Various surgeries are usually performed to promote a healthy appearance and a more comfortable day-to-day life for the patient.
Angiosarcomas typically carry with them a high death rate and short survival time. Due to the disease’s rarity, it is difficult to assess statistical findings and research, but studies indicate that most people survive for 15 to 24 months after the development of angiosarcoma. However, up to 33% of patients could survive for as many as 5 years.