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About Childhood Liposarcoma

  • Liposarcoma is a malignant soft tissue tumor that develops in fat tissue. It's most often found in the abdominal cavity or extremities, usually the thigh or upper arm, but can be found anywhere in the body.

    • Liposarcoma tumors can exist for a long time before noticeable symptoms appear.
    • Liposarcoma does not usually spread beyond its local location.
    • The cause of liposarcoma is unknown but has been linked to genetics and inherited diseases.
    • Liposarcoma is very rare in children and is much more likely to occur in adults.
    • The three primary subtypes of liposarcoma include:
      • Well-differentiated, which are low-grade tumors that may recur locally but don't spread.
      • Myxoid, which are more common in children.
      • Pleomorphic, which are aggressive and highly malignant.

    We treat children with liposarcoma at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Bone and Soft Tissue Tumors Program. Our integrated pediatric oncology program offers a leading cancer center's combined expertise and a world-renowned children's hospital.

    Symptoms of Childhood Liposarcoma

    Because soft tissue sarcomas affect the elastic and easily moved tissue, a tumor may exist for a long time before being discovered, growing large and pushing aside surrounding tissue. Liposarcoma symptoms vary significantly with the size, location, and spread of the tumor. Common symptoms may include:

    • Painless swelling or mass anywhere on the body
    • Pain or soreness caused by compressed nerves or muscles
    • Limping or other difficulty using the legs, feet, arms or hands
    • Diminished range of motion in the affected area

    How We Diagnose Childhood Liposarcoma

    In addition to a physical examination, a doctor may order the following to diagnose a liposarcoma:

    • X-rays, which produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which produces detailed images of organs and structures within the body and/or spine.
    • Computerized tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) to capture a detailed view of the body, in some cases.
    • Biopsy or tissue sample from the tumor to provide definitive information about the type of tumor; this is collected during surgery.
    • Bone scan to detect bone diseases and tumors as well as to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.
    • Complete blood count (CBC), which measures size, number and maturity of different blood cells in a specific volume of blood.

    After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.

    How We Treat Childhood Liposarcoma

    The treatment of liposarcoma depends on how far the disease has spread and how aggressive it is. Standard treatment is surgery to remove the entire tumor and surrounding healthy tissue to ensure that no cancer cells remain. We use radiation therapy and chemotherapy if surgery alone is ineffective.

    Local recurrence of the disease following surgical resection is common and may be avoided with adjuvant radiation therapy. The risk of recurrence increases with high-grade tumors.

    Children treated for liposarcoma should visit our pediatric cancer survivorship programs every year to manage disease complications, screen for early recurrence of cancer, and manage late effects of treatment.

    Long-term Outcomes for Children with Liposarcoma

    Survival rates for liposarcoma vary widely, depending on the subtype. Myxoid tumors have a five-year survival rate of 80 percent, while aggressive pleomorphic tumors can have a five-year survival rate closer to 20 percent.

    Childhood Liposarcoma Treatment Team

    Your child's care team works together to ensure your child is receiving the best care and treatment possible. In addition to meeting with your pediatric oncologists, your child may see one of our endocrinologists, cardiologists, neurologists, neuropsychologists, and complementary therapy specialists.

    See a complete list of the specialists in our Childhood Solid Tumor Center.