Angiosarcoma is a rare form of sarcoma that develops from the endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels.
It can occur anywhere throughout the body but is most commonly found in the skin, breast, liver, spleen, and the body’s deep tissues.
Angiosarcoma in the skin is often found on the face and scalp.
In some rare cases, angiosarcoma can occur in the heart.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of sarcoma can vary depending on the size and location of your tumour. You may experience all, some or none of these symptoms before you are diagnosed with a sarcoma:
A bruise or a lesion that does not heal.
A lump or swelling in the soft tissue of the body under the skin, often on the arm, leg or trunk that is;
- increasing in size
- is larger than 5cm
- usually painful, but not always
A specialist doctor will diagnose sarcoma through a series of tests. These may include:
- Physical examination – looking at and feeling any lump
- A scan – taking pictures of the inside of the body using ultrasound, x-ray, CT, EUS, PET or MRI
- A biopsy – taking and testing a tissue sample
To read more about scans and tests, click here.
The usual treatment for angiosarcoma is surgery. The surgeon will remove the tumour and aim to take to take an area of normal tissue around it too – this is known as taking a margin. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy may also be used to treat angiosarcoma and can be used before or after surgery. When used before surgery it aims to reduce the size of the tumour so it can be operated on and removed. When used after surgery, the aim is to kill off any local cancer cells in the area of the tumour.
Treatment for angiosarcoma of the breast
Angiosarcomas of the breast are more likely to be found in women who have previously had radiotherapy to treat breast cancer. This is called radiation-induced sarcoma. The treatment for angiosarcoma in the breast is the removal of the breast (mastectomy) and chemotherapy. Radiotherapy may not be possible if you have had radiotherapy for breast cancer in the past.
Treatment for angiosarcoma of the heart
The main treatment for angiosarcoma of the heart is surgery. You will be operated on by a cardiovascular surgeon – a surgeon who specialises in operating on the heart and blood vessels. The surgeon will remove the tumour and aim to take to take an area of normal tissue around it too – this is known as taking a margin. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, it isn’t possible to take all the tumour out. Other treatment options include chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
After treatment, you will have regular follow-up appointments for several years. You should receive a follow-up schedule from your sarcoma clinical nurse specialist. The usual practice will include:
- A chance to discuss symptoms
- An examination to look for any signs of the sarcoma returning. This may include an MRI or ultrasound if required after examination
- A chest x-ray to rule out any secondary cancers occurring in the lungs
Sarcoma cancer can reappear in the same area after the treatment of a previous tumour; this is called a local recurrence.
If the cancer does reappear, it is important to get treated as quickly as possible. This could involve further surgery and/or radiotherapy; your treatment will be assessed on an individual basis. It is useful to check for recurrences yourself through self-examination: your doctor or sarcoma clinical nurse specialist can tell you what to look for.
If you are worried about your cancer returning contact your doctor or nurse; they may decide to bring forward the date of your follow up appointment to investigate your concerns.
What if my cancer spreads to another part of my body?
A recurrence of sarcoma may be accompanied by cancer in other parts of the body. This is called metastasis or secondary cancer. Some people are diagnosed with sarcoma because their metastases have been discovered before their primary sarcoma tumour. In sarcoma patients, these secondary cancers may appear in the lungs, which is why a chest x-ray is taken at follow-up appointments.
Secondary cancers may also appear in the liver or brain. Treatment for secondary cancer may involve surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy as appropriate; your treatment will be assessed on an individual basis.