Angiosarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in the lymph vessels and the lining of the blood vessels. It is a very rare form of cancer. Our lymph vessels are a part of our immune system that disposes of the bacteria, viruses, and waste products after collecting them.
Although angiosarcoma can affect any part of the body, mostly it develops in the skin of one’s head and neck. Very rarely, angiosarcoma can affect the skin and some other body parts such as the breasts.
Furthermore, it may also affect the deeper tissues of the body like the heart and liver. Moreover, earlier treatment with radiation therapy for some other area may also angiosarcoma in that particular area.
The treatment for angiosarcoma depends upon the location of your tumor. Usually, the main treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
The exact cause for angiosarcoma is not clear. However, researchers and doctors identify several risk factors that increase your chance of getting this cancer.
The cells that line the blood vessels or lymph vessels develop certain mutations (errors) in genetic code. After that, the cells start diving quickly because of these mutations. This leads to the formation of more and more cells. The normal cells will die with time, while cancer cells remain.
This results in the formation of a mass of abnormal cells that develops from the diseased lymph vessels and blood vessels. These cells may break off with time and spread to the rest parts of the body.
Certain risk factors increase one’s risk of angiosarcoma, which include:
Radiation therapy. You have a greater risk of developing an angiosarcoma after treatment with radiation for cancer. Although rare, 5 to 10 percent of the cases of angiosarcoma occur typically after radiation therapy.
Lymphedema (Swelling because of lymph vessel damage): Accumulation of the lymph fluid because of the blocking or damaging of the lymphatic system causes swelling. This welling is called Lymphedema.
You can get Lymphedema after your doctor removes lymph nodes by surgery. Your surgeon may do this to treat your cancer. One can even get Lymphedema because of other infections and Conditions.
Chemicals. Exposure to various chemicals can also increase your chance of angiosarcoma. Examples include vinyl chloride and arsenic.
Depending on the location and size of your tumor, you may develop various signs and symptoms.
Angiosarcomas affecting the skin. Mostly, an angiosarcoma develops in the skin on the neck and head, especially the scalp. When the angiosarcoma develops here, the signs and symptoms include:
Skin appears raised and purplish that resembles a bruise
A lesion (bruise-like) that becomes larger with time
Your lesions bleed when you scratch or bump them.
The skin surrounding the tumor shows swelling
Angiosarcoma affecting organs
You develop pain when the angiosarcoma affects certain organs, like the heart or the liver. Meanwhile, other symptoms will depend on the location and size of your tumor.
Various procedures and tests that help in the diagnosis of an angiosarcoma include:
Physical exam. Before going for the main tests, your doctor will examine your tumor physically. He/she may have a thorough physical examination to understand your angiosarcoma.
Biopsy. (Removing a sample of tissue for testing). In this procedure, your doctor removes a sample of the tumor and examines it under a microscope. He/she will analyze the changes in the cancer cells. That way, he/she may be able to tell whether you have a tumor or not.
Imaging tests. These tests give your doctor more details about the tumor. He/she will be able to find whether the tumor is. These tests include MRI, positron emission tomography (PET), and Ct scan. Depending on the location of the tumor, your doctor may choose a particular type of treatment.
The type of treatment option for your angiosarcoma will spend on the location of your cancer, the size of the tumor. It will also depend on whether the tumor has spread to other parts of your body.
The main treatment options for your tumor include:
Surgery. The motive of surgery is to remove the angiosarcoma of your body. Thus, your surgeon will try to remove the whole of your tumor along with some healthy tissue that surrounds the tumor.
However, in certain cases, surgery may not be a solution. For instance, if the cancer is larger and has already spread to other areas of your body, then other treatment options may be helpful.
Radiation therapy. To kill the cancer cells, your doctor may use radiation therapy that utilizes high-energy beams, like X-rays and protons. Your doctor may order radiation therapy to kill the remaining cancer cells. Thus, if it is not possible for your doctor to make surgery, he/she may employ radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy. This method uses powerful drugs or chemicals to kill the tumor cells of angiosarcoma. In case the tumor has spread to other organs of the body, then your doctor may order chemotherapy. Furthermore, in many cases, your doctor may use a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to treat the angiosarcoma in a better way.
Coping and support
When you get diagnosed with angiosarcoma, it could be frightening for you. The condition will be no different for your family.
However, you may learn to cope with the uncertainty and distress related to cancer with time. Thus, you need to follow these instructions until then;
Call on for medical support:
Various things are going to help you. For instance, the knowledge and understanding of a medical social worker, or any other mental health professional is necessary. They will help you in understanding your cancer.
Furthermore, if your child or other family member suffers from cancer, you need to ask health care professionals for advice. They will provide you with options for medical health support. This will also provide you with emotional and social support.
In addition to this, you can check various online services that will provide you support to combat cancer.
- Gain more knowledge about angiosarcoma to make decisionsabout control and care:
Ask your doctor about various treatment options related to angiosarcoma. Little knowledge is dangerous. Therefore, more confidence in understanding and making decisions about treatment options will be there with you. So you should always learn more about the disease.
Ask the health care team for guidance if your child has cancer. Therefore, get more and more information for appropriately caring for the patient.
Be close to your friends and family:
A close and strong relationship with your family and friends is necessary. It will help you deal with angiosarcoma.
You need practical support, moral support from your friends and relatives. Thus, someone should be there for you to look after the family. Emotional support from them is going to matter most. Thus, a healthy and happy person will ultimately efficiently fight the disease.
Prepare for your appointment
You are likely to start making an appointment with your primary care doctor if some signs and symptoms worry you. Ask for a referral to an experienced specialist if your doctor suspects angiosarcoma.
A team of specialists typically can treat. For instance;
Tumor surgeons who have specialization in operating soft tissue cancers.
Doctors who have a specialization in treating cancers with systemic medications or chemotherapy.
Pathologists diagnose the specific type of cancer by analyzing a tissue.
Rehabilitation specialists who after surgery help in the recovery of a tumor.
What you should expect from your doctor:
You will face several questions from your doctor. Thus, you should be ready to answer these. So, give more time to your doctor to address them. Your doctor may ask;
What signs and symptoms concern you more?
Have your symptoms been occasional or continuous?
When did you start to notice the symptoms?
The severity of your symptoms?
Is there anything that improves your symptoms?
Is there anything that worsens your symptoms?
Do you have any family or personal history of cancer?