What are abdominal and retroperitoneal sarcomas? Symptoms and Treatment

Abdominal sarcomas are soft tissue sarcomas that can originate in adipose, muscular, nervous, fibrous tissues or in blood vessels. Those tumors that grow in the back of the abdominal cavity are called retroperitoneal sarcomas. Sarcomas in general are rare tumors.

Sarcomas represent 1% of cancers, which corresponds to an incidence of 6/100000 inhabitants per year. Of these, about 4 out of 10 sarcomas start in the abdomen.

Treatment of abdominal and retroperitoneal sarcomas

Surgery is the cornerstone of treatment for non-metastatic sarcomas. Surgical removal consists of removing the tumor without breaking it with a sufficiently wide margin of healthy tissue around it, in order to reduce the risk of local relapse.

Surgery in experienced centers has been shown to improve overall survival in patients with abdominal and retroperitoneal sarcomas. For this reason, the surgery must be performed by a surgeon expert in sarcomas, with undeniable experience in the removal of these tumors, optimizing patient follow-up and reducing the risk of relapse.

On the other hand, radiation therapy may be an adjunct to surgery for soft tissue sarcoma, particularly when the tumor is voluminous, deep in location, and high grade.

In some cases, chemotherapy can be performed before surgery when the tumor has a high volume, an unfavorable location or a high aggressiveness. The objective is to obtain a decrease in the tumor size or necrosis of the tumor, which will facilitate surgical removal.

Symptoms of abdominal and retroperitoneal sarcomas

First of all, it is important to know that when sarcomas originate in the abdominal and retroperitoneal area, it is common not to feel any symptoms until the tumor has reached a large size. However, the most common signs are:

  • Bleeding: In retroperitoneal tumors bleeding can occur due to invasion of contiguous organs, such as the stomach or intestine. In these cases, stools will be bloody, or black and slimy.
  •  Increased abdominal girth: In very voluminous tumors that affect abdominal or retroperitoneal organs, a mass (lump) may appear that can be felt in the abdomen.
  • Pain: The mass or lump that appears may or may not be painful, although it is most often painless at first. The pain can occur due to the growth of the tumor itself or due to the involvement of other nearby structures such as nerves or muscles.

On the other hand, there are also some general symptoms that may appear when tumors are more advanced or have metastasized:

 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain
  • Fever
  • Anemia

If you need more information on soft tissue sarcomas, do not hesitate to contact our specialist sarcoma unit here.

 

References

    1. Soft tissue sarcoma: symptoms. Spanish Association Against Cancer. Last consultation 04/11. Available online: https://www.aecc.es/es/todo-sobre-cancer/tipos-cancer/sarcoma-tejidos-blandos/sintomas
    2. Signs and symptoms of soft tissue sarcomas. American Cancer Society. Last consultation 04/11. Available online: https://www.cancer.org/es/cancer/sarcoma-de-tejidos-blandos/deteccion-diagnostico-clasificacion-por-etapas/senales-sintomas.html
    3. Surgical treatment of abdominal sarcomas. The Sevier. Last consultation 04/11. Available online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1282912920432817

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