Liposarcoma is a type of cancer known as soft tissue sarcoma. It begins in the fatty tissues of the body.
There are three basic types of liposarcoma. Knowing the type is important information for doctors to make the best treatment plan.
- Well-differentiated liposarcoma is the most common form. It grows slowly and generally does not spread to other parts of the body. Well-differentiated liposarcoma has a tendency to regrow after initial treatment. A more aggressive form of well-differentiated liposarcoma is called dedifferentiated liposarcoma. These tumors start out as well-differentiated tumors, but doctors reclassify them if changes in the DNA of the tumor cells have made them more aggressive.
- Myxoid liposarcoma is the second most common type of liposarcoma. It tends to grow more slowly. Round cell liposarcoma is the name given to the more aggressive form of myxoid liposarcoma.
- Pleomorphic liposarcoma is extremely rare. It accounts for fewer than 5 percent of all liposarcomas. It is more common in older adults. It has the potential to spread very quickly.
Liposarcoma usually occurs in the limbs, especially the thigh, and in the abdomen.
The signs and symptoms of liposarcoma vary according to the location of the tumor. The tumors tend to grow to a large size. The first sign of liposarcoma on the leg or arm is usually a growing lump. People with liposarcoma in the abdomen may notice that their stomach is getting larger.
Doctors use imaging to detect liposarcoma. These tests typically include MRIs or CTs. The scans can show how extensive the tumor is and if it has spread. The next step is a biopsy. Since sarcomas are rare, interpretation of the biopsy is crucial. It is important that you receive a diagnosis from a team of doctors that is highly experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue sarcoma.
The main treatment for liposarcoma is surgery to remove the tumor. Liposarcoma can begin in many different parts of the body. The surgery that’s right for you depends on the exact size and location of the tumor.
Today, thanks to advances in treatment pioneered at MSK and other cancer centers, the vast majority of people with liposarcoma in the arms or legs do not need an amputation. Limb-sparing surgery allows people with soft tissue sarcoma in an arm or leg to avoid having the limb removed and preserves the function of the limb.
Doctors may also recommend radiation, chemotherapy, or other drug therapies. These treatments can help prevent the tumor from coming back.
Which combination of treatments is right for you depends on the unique characteristics of the tumor. MSK’s liposarcoma specialists tend to recommend radiation for people with myxoid tumors but not for people with well-differentiated tumors. Drug therapies can be beneficial, especially for myxoid and round cell tumors.
Sometimes liposarcoma spreads to other parts of the body. Where liposarcoma spreads depends on where the original tumor began. Common areas of metastasis include the lungs, soft tissue in other parts of the body, and the liver.
Liposarcoma is also known for its ability to regrow after treatment. It can come back months to decades after the initial diagnosis. That’s why people should receive ongoing follow-up care to monitor for a return of liposarcoma.
Our liposarcoma nomogram is designed to predict the prognosis of someone who has had surgery to remove a tumor. This tool predicts the likelihood of surviving five or 12 years after surgery.
The prediction is based on personal medical information and specific details about the tumor, such as the liposarcoma histologic subtype. We recommend that you use this tool in partnership with your doctor.