Pleomorphic sarcoma, formerly known as Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma, is a rare disease. It is a type of malignant tumor that usually develops in the fat or muscle tissue. Pleomorphic sarcomas tend to grow very slowly and remain completely asymptomatic (does not cause physical symptoms) until the cancer begins to spread to other organs in the body. Although Fibrous Histiocytoma tends to appear in the extremities, it is likely to occur in the torso or/and neck. Pleomorphic sarcoma diagnosed in its early stages is often treated with a combination of surgery and radiation therapy. In most cases this combination is sufficient to eradicate the cancer from the body.
Pleomorphic sarcoma is classified into different types depending on the affected tissue: liposarcoma, which are tumors that arise in in fat cells in deep soft tissue of the limbs or abdomen; and malignant fibrous histiocytomas (MFH), which is characterized by a mass that usually develops in the skeletal muscle. Both Liposarcoma and malignant fibrous histiocytoma are most commonly seen in people ages 50 to 65. The most important risk factor for the development of these two malignancies is genetic.
Liposarcomas tend to develop in the back of the thighs or near the groin, as well as in the abdominal area. The onset of symptoms can be occurrence of a mass which grows large enough to put pressure on nerves or the gastrointestinal tract. As the disease worsens, numbness in the leg, fatigue, abdominal pain, swelling, and nausea may occur. Sometimes a pleomorphic sarcoma may occur in the subuctaneous layers of the adipose tissue which are very close to the skin, and thus cause subcutaneous tumors. These cancers may become visible and palpable over the years, and having soft painless nodules.
The appearance of malignant fibrous histiocytomas (MFH) is usually in the thigh or arm. They grow very slowly in deep muscle tissue near the bone. Although rare, a MFH can occur in soft tissue or epithelial linings around the kidney, bladder, stomach, or heart. A patient with a malignant fibrous histiocytomas may also feel a hard mass under the skin, and experience fatigue, nausea and weight loss in advanced stages MFH.
Early detection and effective treatment are important not only to eradicate the tumor but also to prevent serious health complications. A physical exam helps the health care provider to start the diagnosis and evaluate the patient, and take diagnostic imaging of the affected body part for analysis. Once the tumor is found, a biopsy is recommended to determine if it is a benign tumor or cancerous mass (cancer). After confirmation of diagnosis, other diagnostic procedures are performed to determine if the cancer has already spread in the body.
Pleomorphic Sarcoma treatment includes in most cases surgical intervention. The main objective of the surgeon is to remove the entire tumor before it spreads to other organs of the body. If the cancer persists after surgery, a series of radiation treatment may be administered. Chemotherapy is sometimes given to certain patients, but it has not proved to be effective against Pleomorphic Sarcoma (Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma).