Sarcoma is a term associated with the cancer of connective tissue in our body. The connective tissues are blood vessels, nerves, fat, bones, muscles etc. This type of cancer is very rare, compared to carcinomas which occur in the tissues of the internal organs like lungs, kidney, etc.
Sarcomas are rare and liposarcoma is even rarer in occurrence. It is also difficult to diagnose, as the signs and symptoms develop only in quite later stages of the disease.
What is The Diagnosis for Liposarcoma?
To see how a liposarcoma is diagnosed, we must first see the signs and symptoms of the disease. The signs and symptoms are not seen usually, until the disease has progressed to a later stage. This is because, initially the tumor isn’t that big to cause any discomfort. And the tumor in itself might not even be painful. It is only after the progression of the disease to a later stage, that the symptoms start emerging. The tumor keeps growing and starts affecting the nearby organs as it grows. The signs and symptoms, therefore, largely depend upon the site of the tumor and the organs it has progressed to. Liposarcoma is usually noticed to be developing in the limbs or the abdomen, though it may at times develop at other places. So, if a liposarcoma is in the limbs, then the symptoms would be most likely to be seen in the limbs, like pain due to compression of an underlying nerve, weakness in the limb, a swelling or a bulge, restricted movements due to severe pain. Similarly, if it is in the abdomen, then the symptoms are most likely to be associated with the abdomen, like there can be constipation or even loose motions, pain in abdomen, weight gain, which looks like normal weight gain, but actually it is the tumor that is responsible for the enlargement of the tummy; there can be loss of appetite, or feeling of fullness sooner. There can be nausea and sometimes chest pain even.
If any of these above symptoms develop, there is a call for liposarcoma diagnosis. The primary step is a physical examination. The size of the lump, how deep it is situated and whether it is firm or movable, all these factors play an important role in suspecting a cancer. The next step in liposarcoma diagnosis is using imaging techniques like X-rays, CT scan (computerised tomographic scanning) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This is to ascertain the size of the tumor and also to see how far it has progressed in the body. Once a lump of some kind is confirmed, the doctor may advise a biopsy (a histopathological examination) of the sample of the tissue, to confirm the cancer. Here again, there are two methods of biopsy- a needle biopsy and a surgical biopsy. The type of biopsy plays a critical role in determining the choice of treatment and the prognosis of the disease.
Once the liposarcoma is confirmed, it has to be categorized into one of the following four types- well-differentiated liposarcoma, myxoid liposarcoma, pleomorphic liposarcoma and dedifferentiated liposarcoma. The categorization helps to decide the course of treatment and the prognosis of the tumor. It is then ascertained whether the treatment would comprise of surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, or a combination of any of these.
Many liposarcoma tumors are usually recurrent. They reappear after the surgery. Hence, frequent and long term follow ups may be advised by your oncologist, to make sure that the tumor is not reoccurring.
As early diagnosis and treatment is important in a complete recovery from liposarcoma, so is the diagnosis made by a skillful oncologist. Hence, it is advisable that the persons specialized in dealing with the liposarcoma do the imaging, biopsy and also perform the surgery. Liposarcoma is rarest of the rare cancers and hence its treatment is difficult, complicated and should be done by a super specialist in this category.