If you have liposarcoma, it means you have a type of cancer that grows in fat cells -- often on your limbs or your belly. It's one of a group of cancers that doctors call sarcomas, which start in soft tissues like muscles, tendons, and fat.
Liposarcoma can start in any area of fat in your body, but it usually grows in the upper leg, behind the knee, in the upper arm, or deep inside the belly. From there, it can spread to other parts of your body. Some liposarcomas grow faster and spread more quickly than others.
There are five types of liposarcoma. Each one is based on how different the cancer cells look from healthy ones under a microscope and how quickly they grow.
Knowing which of these types you have will help your doctor find the right treatment.
Well-differentiated. This is the most common type of liposarcoma. It's usually found deep inside your body, often in the belly. The cancer cells are low-grade, which means they look a lot like normal fat cells under a microscope and grow slowly.
Myxoid. This type can grow faster than well-differentiated cancers. It often starts in the arms or legs.
Round cell. This type can also grow faster than well-differentiated tumors and is often found in the arms or legs.
Dedifferentiated. This happens when a slow-growing tumor changes into a faster-growing type. The new cells are high-grade, meaning they grow and spread quickly. Dedifferentiated liposarcoma starts deep in the belly.
Pleomorphic. It's the rarest type of liposarcoma. It grows quickly, and the cells look very different from normal cells under a microscope. It's found in the arms and legs.
Doctors don't know exactly what causes liposarcomas to grow. Like other cancers, changes to DNA allow cells to multiply out of control and form tumors.
Some things can raise the chances that you get liposarcoma. You may be more likely to get this cancer if you:
- Had radiation treatment for another type of cancer, such as breast cancer or lymphoma
- Are between ages 50 and 65
- Have an inherited condition such as neurofibromatosis, Werner syndrome, or Li-Fraumeni syndrome
Talk to your doctor about these risks. Just because you have one or more of them doesn't mean that you will get liposarcoma. This cancer is rare. And some people get liposarcoma without having any risks.
You might not notice any symptoms in the early stages of liposarcoma. The cancer may not cause any problems until the tumor grows large enough to press on nearby parts of your body and starts to cause pain.
One telltale sign of a liposarcoma is a lump under your skin that gets larger over time. The area around the lump may be swollen and painful.
Some other symptoms you might get are:
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
When the cancer is in your arm or leg, you might notice problems like:
- Weakness in the arm or leg
When the cancer is in your belly, you may have:
- Pain in your belly or side
- A feeling of fullness soon after you eat
- Poop that looks bloody or black like tar
- Blood in your vomit
A new or growing lump, with or without these other symptoms, is a sign that you should see a doctor.
American Cancer Society: "Risk Factors for Soft Tissue Sarcomas."
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: "Liposarcoma in Children."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Liposarcoma."
Mayo Clinic: "Liposarcoma: Symptoms & causes."
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "What's New in Liposarcoma?"
National Organization for Rare Disorders: "Liposarcoma."
The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative: "What is liposarcoma?"
University of Rochester Medical Center: "Liposarcoma."