What is angiosarcoma?

Understanding angiosarcoma: definition and causes

What does angiosarcoma mean?

Angiosarcoma is a rare cancer that originates in the endothelial cells lining blood or lymph vessels. These cells typically form the barrier between the bloodstream and surrounding tissues. In angiosarcoma, these cells become malignant, multiplying uncontrollably and forming new, abnormal blood vessels that eventually lead to tumor development. This cancer is known for its aggressive nature, often leading to a high rate of metastasis, where cancer cells spread to other parts of the body.

Exploring the causes of angiosarcoma

While the precise cause of angiosarcoma remains elusive, research has identified several risk factors that may contribute to its development. It’s important to note that these factors increase the likelihood but do not guarantee the onset of angiosarcoma. They include:

  • Radiation Exposure: Previous radiation therapy, especially at high doses, is linked to an elevated risk of angiosarcoma.
  • Chemical Contact: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as vinyl chloride, arsenic, and herbicides, has been associated with a higher incidence of this cancer.
  • Chronic Lymphedema: Prolonged swelling due to lymphatic fluid accumulation, often following surgery, can lead to lymphangiosarcoma, a form of angiosarcoma.
  • Genetic Predisposition: Although rare, genetic mutations in specific genes may predispose individuals to angiosarcoma.

Despite these known risk factors, angiosarcoma can also appear spontaneously, without any identifiable cause. This complexity underscores the need for ongoing research to better understand the mechanisms behind this aggressive cancer.

Where angiosarcoma develops

Angiosarcoma can arise in various parts of the body, and its location significantly impacts the prognosis and treatment options. Here are the common sites where angiosarcoma forms:

Skin angiosarcoma

  • Skin angiosarcoma typically occurs on the dermal or subcutaneous layers. It often presents as a rapidly growing lump or bump under the skin.
  • Symptoms may include bruising, discoloration, pain, or tenderness in the affected area.
  • Early detection is crucial for effective management.

Liver angiosarcoma (Hepatic Angiosarcoma)

  • Hepatic angiosarcoma develops within the liver tissue.
  • It is a rare but aggressive form of liver cancer.
  • Symptoms may include abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

Heart angiosarcoma (Cardiac Angiosarcoma)

  • Cardiac angiosarcoma originates in the heart, specifically within the heart chambers or blood vessels.
  • Symptoms can vary but may include chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, and fatigue.
  • Due to its location, diagnosis and treatment can be challenging.

Other organs and tissues

  • Angiosarcoma can also develop in other organs, such as the breast, spleen, bone, and deep soft tissues.
  • The symptoms depend on the affected site and may include swelling, pain, or functional impairment.


  • Angiosarcoma has a high propensity for metastasis, spreading to distant parts of the body.
  • Metastatic angiosarcoma can involve the lungs, bones, or other organs.

Aangiosarcoma can manifest in diverse locations, making early detection and personalized treatment essential. If you suspect any unusual symptoms, consult a healthcare professional promptly for evaluation and appropriate management.

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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