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What is a Hemangiosarcoma?

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  • Written By: Geisha A. Legazpi
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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A soft-tissue malignant tumor called hemangiosarcoma is a serious disease. The term “hemangio” refers to blood vessels, while “sarcoma” refers to cancer of soft tissues that include adipose or fat tissues, fibrous tissues, nerves, and blood vessels. Like the benign tumor called hemangioma, hemangiosarcoma is made up of blood vessel cells called endothelial cells. This is the reason why this malignant tumor is called blood-fed sarcoma. Unlike hemangioma, hemangiosarcoma is among the types of cancers that are very rare, but are highly aggressive and invasive.

Hemangiosarcoma is categorized as an occupational cancer because it occurs among workers who are exposed to arsenic and arsenic-containing compounds. Arsenic is a typical by-product of smelting and serves as a component of many products. These include electrical devices, semiconductors, alloys, fungicides, herbicides, and other medications. It has been shown in studies that exposure to substances, such as thorium dioxide, which is found in tungsten alloys, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is found in many plastic products, can lead to hemangiosarcoma formation.

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Another name for hemangiosarcoma is angiosarcoma. A lymphangiosarcoma, which is one of the rare cancers of the lymph vessels, is a type of angiosarcoma. Based on statistics, females and males have equal chances of having the disease, but older adults have higher chances of being affected. Although they can occur at any site, angiosarcomas prefer soft tissues, skin, liver, and breast. When these rare cancers metastasize to other body parts, they preferentially spread to the brain, omentum, and lungs, probably because these organs have rich vascular supply.

A hemangiosarcoma is filled with blood because it is made up of endothelial cells that eventually form blood vessels. It presents quite a challenge in cardiology because, aside from invading cardiac tissues, it can also cause bleeding within the heart muscle. This can lead to failure of the body’s pumping mechanism and death.

When a hemangiosarcoma occurs in the skin in conjunction with a long-standing edema of the lymph vessels, it leads to a condition called Stewart-Treves syndrome. This condition frequently occurs in patients who have previously undergone mastectomy. normally 5 to 15 years prior. A person with this syndrome would usually have severe edema or swelling of the arm on the same side of the mastectomy. This would eventually spread to the forearm and the hand. Thickening and wrinkling of the skin would occur, followed by the appearance of purplish or reddish blue skin lesions that herald the presence of the malignant tumor.

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