Angiosarcoma (sometimes referred to as “vascular sarcoma”) is a type of soft tissue tumor that can develop in the inner lining of blood vessels and lymph vessels. This type of cancer can occur anywhere in the body, although it most often forms in the skin (particularly on the scalp and face), breasts, liver and spleen. Angiosarcoma that forms in the skin is referred to as “cutaneous angiosarcoma,” while angiosarcoma that forms beneath the skin is known as “subcutaneous angiosarcoma.” Angiosarcoma is generally an aggressive form of cancer that grows relatively quickly.
What causes angiosarcoma?
Scientists within the medical community are still researching exactly what causes angiosarcoma, although a number of risk factors have been identified. For example, research has shown that radiation therapy can increase the risk of developing angiosarcoma. Lymphedema (swelling that occurs due to a buildup of lymph fluids) can also increase the chances of developing angiosarcoma, as can exposure to chemicals such as arsenic and vinyl chloride.
What are the symptoms of angiosarcoma?
As noted above, angiosarcoma can develop anywhere in the body, and the resulting symptoms will vary depending on its location. When angiosarcoma forms in the skin, it may produce a raised, purplish area of skin that resembles a bruise and tends to bleed easily when bumped or scratched. In some instances, localized pain and swelling may occur as well. Oftentimes, when angiosarcoma forms beneath the skin, it doesn’t produce noticeable symptoms unless it affects nearby organs and tissues. In certain cases, pain and a palpable lump may develop.
How is angiosarcoma diagnosed?
An angiosarcoma diagnosis often starts with a physical examination and one or more imaging tests, such as a CT, MRI or PET scan. If a physician suspects angiosarcoma after reviewing the results of these tests, he or she will likely order a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
How is angiosarcoma treated?
When developing a treatment plan for angiosarcoma, a physician will consider the location and size of the malignancy, as well as whether it has spread to other areas of the body (metastasized). Treatment may include:
- Surgery — The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the angiosarcoma as possible. In some cases, such as where the malignancy is particularly large or has metastasized, surgery may not be a viable option.
- Radiation therapy — Radiation therapy is often used following surgery to help destroy any remaining cancerous cells and prevent the angiosarcoma from returning. Radiation therapy may also be used if surgery isn’t an option, often in combination with chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy — In addition to being used along with radiation therapy when surgery isn’t recommended, chemotherapy may also be used if the angiosarcoma has metastasized.
Individuals with angiosarcoma can feel confident placing their treatment into the hands of Moffitt Cancer Center’s skilled specialists. The multispecialty team in our Sarcoma Program includes medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, registered nurses and other highly trained professionals who work hand in hand to provide our patients with the best possible experience. What’s more, through our robust clinical trials program, we offer a number of different treatment options that aren’t yet widely available in other settings.