Key Points about Liposarcoma

  • Liposarcoma affects fat cells, most often occurring in the arms, legs or abdomen.
  • Doctors use imaging tests, biopsy and physical exams to diagnose liposarcoma.
  • Treatment for liposarcoma may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.


Liposarcoma is a rare soft tissue sarcoma that starts in the fat cells. While it can begin in any area of the body, it most often occurs in the muscles of the arms, legs or abdomen.

Liposarcoma causes

Liposarcoma is caused when mutations (changes) occur in the fat cells, and then those cells grow and multiply quickly.

Liposarcoma risk factors

The following factors may increase your risk for developing liposarcoma:

  • Having specific inherited genetic syndromes, including:
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis
    • Neurofibromatosis
    • Tuberous sclerosis
    • Werner syndrome
  • Having been exposed to certain harmful chemicals, including herbicides, dioxin or arsenic
  • Having undergone radiation therapy

Liposarcoma symptoms

Signs and symptoms of liposarcoma vary depending on where the sarcoma begins. If the liposarcoma begins in your arms or legs, you may experience:

  • A growing lump under the skin that can be felt
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Weakness

If the liposarcoma begins in your abdomen, you may experience:

  • Bloody stool
  • Constipation
  • Feeling full quickly when eating
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen

Liposarcoma diagnosis

Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:

  • Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors.
  • Biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy small sample) from the suspicious area. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for signs of liposarcoma.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan – this type of imaging test provides a 3D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine the size and location of the liposarcoma.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – this type of imaging test uses high-powered magnets to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to determine the size and location of the liposarcoma.

Liposarcoma treatments

Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the cancer and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Surgery – you may need to undergo surgery to remove the cancerous area. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible.
  • Chemotherapy – you may need to also undergo chemotherapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically. During this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).
  • Radiation therapy – this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells. You may need to undergo radiation therapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. Your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.

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