Liposarcoma is a rare cancer of connective tissues that resemble fat cells under a microscope. It accounts for up to 18% of all soft tissue sarcomas. Liposarcoma can occur in almost any part of the body, but more than half of liposarcoma cases involve the thigh, and up to a third involve the abdominal cavity.
Liposarcoma tends to affects adults between the ages of 40 and 60. When it does occur in children, it is usually during the teenage years.
Surgery is the treatment for primary liposarcomas that have not yet spread to other organs. In most cases, a surgeon will remove the tumor, along with a wide margin of healthy tissue around the tumor, with the goal of leaving the area free of disease and preventing the tumor from returning. Most tumors of the arms and legs can be successfully removed while sparing the involved limb. Occasionally, in about 5% of cases, an amputation is the best way to completely remove the cancer and restore the patient to a functional life. Complete surgical removal of tumors within the abdomen is difficult, in part because of the difficulty in getting clear margins of normal tissue.
The combination of surgery and radiation therapy has been shown to prevent recurrence at the surgical site in about 85-90% of liposarcoma cases. These results vary depending on the subtype of sarcoma that is involved. Radiation therapy may be used before, during or after surgery to kill tumor cells and reduce the chance of the tumor returning in the same location. Radiation therapy that is given before surgery may be more beneficial, but it can also make it more difficult for surgical wounds to heal.
The role of chemotherapy in the treatment of liposarcoma is not clearly defined, but it may be recommended in certain situations where patients are at high risk of recurrence or already have widespread disease.