What is Fibrosarcoma? - Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Fibrosarcoma is a type of cancer that affects the soft connective tissues in the body. Read this lesson to learn about the potential risk factors of fibrosarcoma as well as stages, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is Fibrosarcoma?

Fibrosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the soft connective tissues of the body. These tissues hold the bones, muscles, or organs in place. Fibrosarcoma tumors can develop anywhere but are most commonly found in the head, neck, legs, arms, abdomen, and pelvis. The cancer originates in cells called fibrocytes that make up these soft connective tissues, and the resulting tumor is firm and usually white in color.

Cancerous fibrosarcoma cells photographed through a microscope

Stages of Fibrosarcoma

Soft tissue cancers like fibrosarcoma are categorized into stages based on the size, location, and potential spreading capability. Let's take a look at each stage.

  • Stage 1A: The tumor is smaller than 5 centimeters in length and is likely to spread or grow slowly.
  • Stage 1B: The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters in length and is likely to spread or grow slowly.
  • Stage 2A: The tumor is smaller than 5 centimeters but has a greater chance of spreading or growing quickly.
  • Stage 2B: The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters and has a greater chance of spreading or growing quickly.
  • Stage 3: The tumor is very likely to spread or grow quickly OR it has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has already spread to other (distant) parts of the body.

Fibrosarcoma Risk Factors

The exact causes of fibrosarcoma are unknown, but there are a number of risk factors that increase someone's likelihood of developing fibrosarcoma. Having a risk factor does not guarantee the cancer will develop, and not having any risk factors does not guarantee the cancer will not develop.

Fibrosarcoma may develop due to genetic abnormalities or inherited disorders, such as Gardner syndrome, Bourneville's disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Werner syndrome, Gorlin syndrome, or retinoblastoma.

Fibrosarcoma may also develop from other conditions like chemical exposure, previous radiation therapy cancer treatments, or prolonged swelling in the limbs.

Fibrosarcoma Symptoms

There may not be any symptoms associated with fibrosarcoma, particularly during the early stages. However, if symptoms occur, they vary based on the location of the tumor. In the lungs, symptoms can include pain and trouble breathing. In the abdomen, they may come in the form of pain, nausea, and vomiting. In the limbs, symptoms may include pain, swelling, tenderness, and visible lumps. The associated pain from fibrosarcoma results from the pressure that the tumor places on surrounding nerves and tissues.

Treating Fibrosarcoma

There are three main treatment options: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor and any possible surrounding tissue to which the cancer may have spread. If fibrosarcoma is in a limb, it may be necessary to remove part of the bone, too. This piece can be replaced with an artificial bone or with a bone transplanted from elsewhere in the body (called a bone graft). This type of surgery is called limb-sparing surgery, because the point is to save the limb. In contrast, if too much bone needs to be removed, the limb is amputated. Amputation is sometimes required if the cancer has started to spread.

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