Retroperitoneal Sarcoma

A sarcoma is a rare cancer that grows in the connective tissues: muscle, bone, nerves, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels and the fatty and fibrous tissues.

Retroperitoneal sarcomas develop in the retroperitoneum. The retroperitoneum is the space behind the membrane lining the cavity of the abdomen and covering the abdominal organs, such as the major blood vessels, kidneys, pancreas and bladder.

There are two common types of cancers occurring in this area; cancer of the fatty tissue, often called liposarcoma, and cancer of the involuntary muscle, known as leiomyosarcoma.

Symptoms of Retroperitoneal Sarcoma

Symptoms of retroperitoneal sarcoma can vary depending on the size and location of your tumour. They may include:

  • A visible lump in the belly
  • Increase in belly size
  • Dull pain in the stomach area or back
  • Intense stomach pain with bleeding
  • Other rare symptoms include feeling full after eating a small amount of food, weight loss, and anaemia.

Treatment of Retroperitoneal Sarcoma

The treatment for retroperitoneal sarcoma varies with each case and depends on the size and location of the tumour. The most common treatments include:

Radiotherapy – the use of high-energy radiation beams to destroy cancer cells. Radiotherapy can also be used alongside surgery, before or after surgery, to kill off any remaining cancer cells and prevent them from coming back.

Chemotherapy drugs can be prescribed to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also be prescribed to shrink the size of a large tumour so it can be operated on safely.

Surgery – The main treatment of retroperitoneal sarcomas is surgical removal. Surgery can be curative if the entire tumour is successfully removed. Surgery may be used alongside other treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The doctor will remove the tumour and a bit of normal cells surrounding it, to check for clear margins. If the tumour has spread to other organs, they may also need to be removed alongside the tumour. This is to ensure that all cancer cells are removed.