What is retroperitoneal sarcoma?
Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that develops from the body’s connective tissues, such as fat, muscle, blood vessels and fibrous tissue. About 20% of sarcomas develop in the back of the abdomen, also known as the retroperitoneum, next to the kidneys. Retroperitoneal sarcomas likely develop over a long period of time undetected and ultimately can grow to massive sizes. It’s not uncommon for a retroperitoneal sarcoma to reach 20–30 pounds.
What are the symptoms of retroperitoneal sarcoma?
In many cases, symptoms can be vague and nonspecific. The patient may sense a fullness or heaviness in their abdomen. With particularly large tumors, the patient may feel short of breath with exertion or have reflux, constipation or leg swelling. Occasionally, retroperitoneal sarcomas cause pain when they press against a nerve.
Is there more than one kind of retroperitoneal sarcoma?
Yes. There are several subtypes. The two most common subtypes of retroperitoneal sarcomas are:
- Liposarcoma (50%–60%) — originate from fat
- Leiomyosarcoma (20%–30%) — originate from smooth muscle
Other more rare types include solitary fibrous tumor, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor and undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma.
Each subtype requires a different treatment plan, so it’s important to see a retroperitoneal sarcoma specialist with a deep knowledge of these different kinds of tumors.
Is retroperitoneal cancer caused by drinking, smoking or eating habits?
There is no known cause for any of these cancers. Retroperitoneal sarcoma can affect anyone. In fact, even though liposarcoma originates from fat, there is no clear association with a fatty diet or obesity leading to this type of cancer.
How is this type of cancer diagnosed?
Diagnosis of retroperitoneal sarcoma is usually made by a combination of a CT scan and in most cases, needle biopsy. The risk of spreading or “seeding” the tumor is exceedingly low and almost nonexistent with modern biopsy techniques.
What is the treatment for retroperitoneal sarcoma?
The main form of treatment of retroperitoneal sarcoma is surgery. Depending on the case, your team may also recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy to ensure the best possible outcome.