A fibrosarcoma is soft tissue sarcoma, which starts in cells called fibrocytes. Fibrocytes make up the tissues that join muscles to bones.
- Fibrosarcomas are most commonly found in the legs, arms of pelvis.
- Soft tissue sarcomas are rare types of cancer.
What causes a fibrosarcoma?
Some rare inherited genetic conditions put people at greater risk of developing a fibrosarcoma.
These conditions include:
- Gardner syndrome
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
A person would normally know if a member of their family had one of these conditions, and the doctor would check regularly for any signs of a sarcoma.
- Soft tissues sarcoma development may also be linked to chemical exposure and previous radiation treatment for cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Pain is often the first sign of a fibrosarcoma, but sometimes a fibrosarcoma can grow quite big before any symptoms are noticed.The location of the fibrosarcoma will determine the symptoms.
Sarcomas in the limbs may cause:
- a lump may be visible
Sarcomas in the lungs may cause breathlessness.
Sarcomas in the abdomen may cause nausea and vomiting.
TIP: If you have any of these symptoms you should have them checked by your doctor - but remember, they are common to many illnesses other than a fibrosarcoma.
How is it diagnosed?
After visiting a GP a referral will probably be made to a hospital for some tests.
These may include:
- Blood test
- Core needle biopsy
- Surgical biopsy
- CT scan
If the results of the test show a fibrosarcoma, another referral will be made to a doctor who specialises in the treatment of sarcomas.
Some of the tests you undergo may be done by a specialist bone surgeon.
How is it treated?
A team of doctors and other staff at the hospital will plan treatment. It will depend on the size of the tumour and where it is.
Treatment may be coordinated by a surgeon (a doctor who performs operations) oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy) and a radiologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiation).
Treatment may involve:
Most people have chemotherapy to shrink to size of the tumour and to get rid of any cancer cells around the body.
This is usually followed with surgery to remove the tumour. More chemotherapy and radiotherapy usually follows.
Surgery for Fibrosarcoma
Surgery is the usually the first line of treatment for fibrosarcomas.
The aim of surgery is to remove the tumour. Sometimes, because of the type of tumour it can often be difficult to remove.
The surgeon will usually remove the tumour and some of the area around the tumour so that the areas around it are cancer-free. It depends on where the fibrosarcoma is as to the details of the operation.
If the sarcoma is on the legs or arms, sometimes some of the bone will have to be removed.
Either a prosthesis (a metal replacement bone), or a bone graft (bone taken from another part of the body) will be inserted to replace what is missing. This is known as limb-sparing surgery.
Unfortunately because of the location of the tumour, sometimes limb-sparing surgery doesn’t work and a limb might have to be amputated.
It only ever happens if it is completely unavoidable. This is because the cancer has spread into the nearby blood vessels.
Radiotherapy for Fibrosarcoma
Radiotherapy is often given to people with fibrosarcoma after surgery.
This is to ensure that any remaining cancer cells are destroyed. Sometimes it is given before surgery, to try and shrink the tumour and make the surgery easier. Whether you have radiotherapy before or after surgery depends on your individual case.
Radiotherapy may also be the only treatment given for fibrosarcoma, depending on the location and size.
Chemotherapy for Fibrosarcoma
Chemotherapy (the use of drugs called cytotoxics to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells) is often given to people with fibrosarcoma to shrink the tumour prior to surgery. This is called neo-adjuvant treatment (chemo before surgery) and usually means that the surgery will be less invasive because the tumour is smaller.
Often chemo starts again after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and stop them from spreading. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy (chemo after surgery).