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What is angiosarcoma?



Angiosarcomas are cancerous tumors that develop from blood or lymphatic vessels. These tumors can arise in any part of the body. But they occur most often in the arms, legs, neck and head.

In most cases, the cause of angiosarcomas isn't known. However, one type of angiosarcoma may occur in an area of the body previously exposed to radiation. This type tends to be aggressive and respond poorly to treatment. Another type (lymphangiosarcoma) may occur in people with chronic lymphedema in an arm or leg. Doctors refer to this rare condition as Stewart-Treves syndrome.

Angiosarcomas typically cause no signs or symptoms in the early stages. As a tumor grows, it may cause a lump or swelling. Later it may cause pain if it presses on nerves or muscles. A doctor may suspect an angiosarcoma based on:

  • Physical exam
  • A computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • X-rays
  • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

The only way to confirm a diagnosis is by a biopsy of affected tissue. Early-stage treatment often includes surgical removal of the tumor combined with chemotherapy and radiation. In later stages of the disease, treatment is more difficult. But it may include chemotherapy and, in some cases, radiation therapy. Prognosis depends on stage of disease. If the cancer is localized, the prognosis is very favorable.

Last Updated: 06/05/2006
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