What is angiosarcoma?

Understanding the rare and aggressive cancer

What does angiosarcoma mean?

The term angiosarcoma, when broken down is Angio (blood or lymph vessel) and Sarcoma (flesh, or connective tissue cancer). In other words, the lining of the blood vessels (endothelial cells) become malignant. In angiosarcoma, the endothelial cells grow uncontrollably and create more blood vessels until a tumor composed of blood vessels has formed. This cancer is particularly aggressive because it has a high rate of metastasis.

What is the cause of angiosarcoma?

Angiosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that can occur in various parts of the body, including the skin, breast, liver, and other organs. The exact cause of angiosarcoma is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to genetic mutations and environmental factors.

Some of the known risk factors for angiosarcoma include exposure to radiation therapy, certain chemicals such as vinyl chloride, arsenic, and herbicides, and chronic lymphedema (swelling caused by the accumulation of lymphatic fluid).

In some cases, angiosarcoma can also develop spontaneously without any known risk factors. Genetic mutations may play a role in the development of this cancer, as mutations in certain genes have been associated with an increased risk of developing angiosarcoma.

Overall, the exact cause of angiosarcoma is complex and likely involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Where it forms

Angiosarcoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops in the blood vessels and lymph vessels of the body. This type of cancer can occur in any part of the body, but is most commonly found in the skin, liver, and heart. Despite being a rare cancer, angiosarcoma is highly malignant and can spread rapidly, making it a challenging condition to treat.

What are the symptoms of angiosarcoma?

The symptoms of angiosarcoma can vary greatly depending on the location of the cancer. Some common symptoms include:

  • A rapidly growing lump or bump under the skin

  • Bruising or discoloration of the skin

  • Pain or tenderness in the affected area

  • Swelling or fluid buildup in the affected area

Diagnosis and treatment of angiosarcoma

Diagnosis of angiosarcoma typically involves a biopsy, during which a small sample of the affected tissue is removed for examination under a microscope. If angiosarcoma is suspected, further imaging tests may be ordered, such as an MRI, CT scan, or PET scan, to get a better understanding of the extent of the cancer.

Treatment for angiosarcoma depends on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as the patient's overall health. Options may include surgery to remove the affected tissue, radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells, and chemotherapy to slow the growth of cancer cells. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used to achieve the best possible outcome.

What is the life expectancy of angiosarcoma?

The life expectancy of angiosarcoma depends on various factors, such as the location and stage of the cancer, the age and overall health of the patient, and the effectiveness of the treatment. Generally, the prognosis for angiosarcoma is poor, as it is a rare and aggressive type of cancer.

The survival rates for angiosarcoma vary depending on the location and stage of the cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for localized angiosarcoma (meaning the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body) is about 81%, while the 5-year survival rate for angiosarcoma that has spread to distant parts of the body is about 15%.

It is important to note that these statistics are based on large groups of people and do not necessarily reflect the individual prognosis of a patient. Treatment options for angiosarcoma include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy, and the choice of treatment will depend on the specific characteristics of the cancer and the patient.

Why is angiosarcoma so aggressive?

Angiosarcoma is considered a highly aggressive and deadly form of cancer due to several factors:

  1. Rapid Growth: Angiosarcoma can grow and spread quickly, making it difficult to treat and control.

  2. Lack of Symptoms: In its early stages, angiosarcoma may not cause any noticeable symptoms, allowing it to progress before it is detected.

  3. Difficulty in Diagnosis: Angiosarcoma can mimic other conditions, making it difficult to diagnose and leading to delayed treatment.

  4. Aggressive Nature: The cancer cells in angiosarcoma are highly malignant, meaning they are capable of invading and destroying healthy tissue rapidly.

  5. Limited Treatment Options: Due to the rarity of angiosarcoma, there is limited experience and research into effective treatments, making it challenging to manage the disease.

  6. High Recurrence Rate: Even if the initial treatment is successful, angiosarcoma has a high recurrence rate, making ongoing monitoring and treatment necessary.

Prognosis and coping with angiosarcoma

The prognosis for angiosarcoma can be highly variable and depends on many factors, such as the stage and location of the cancer, the patient's overall health, and the type of treatment received. Some patients may experience a complete remission of their cancer, while others may experience a recurrence or progression of their disease.

Coping with angiosarcoma can be challenging, but there are resources available to help. Patients and their families may benefit from support groups, counseling, and other forms of emotional and practical support.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with angiosarcoma, it is important to work closely with a healthcare team that is experienced in treating this type of cancer. With the right care and support, it is possible to manage the condition and maintain a good quality of life.

Preventing angiosarcoma

According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are certain activities and medical conditions that have been identified as potential risk factors for developing angiosarcoma. Taking measures such as protecting the skin from sun exposure and limiting exposure to certain chemicals may help reduce the risk of developing this rare cancer. However, some risk factors, such as genetic inheritance or requiring radiation therapy for cancer treatment, cannot be avoided.

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