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What Is a Spindle Cell Carcinoma?

Smoking increases the risk of spindle cell carcinoma.
When cells from spindle cell carcinoma are viewed under a microscope, they appear spindle-shaped.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2014
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Spindle cell carcinoma is a type of cancer which usually originates in the connective tissues of the body. When cells from this type of cancer are viewed under a microscope, they appear spindle-shaped. It is a very aggressive form of cancer, and patients who are diagnosed generally do not live more than five years. It may quickly spread from one tissue system to another, making it harder to treat.

Typically, spindle cell carcinoma can occur in any connective tissue in the body, although it is more common in some areas than others. Some of the most common varieties occur in the skin on areas which have been overexposed to the sun. This type of carcinoma can cause a large mass, or tumor, which is generally surgically removed during the initial stages of treatment. Whether or not the entire mass can be removed will depend on where the tumor is located. Those which are situated right next to an important artery or organ system may be inoperable.

After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the most common treatment methods for spindle cell carcinoma. How well they work will depend on whether or not the disease has moved out of the initial area. Once the cancer spreads into surrounding organs or tissue, it is often much harder to treat. The exact treatment options used and in what order will depend on the type of tissue being infected, as some respond better to radiation than chemotherapy.

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Certain activities or behaviors may make you more prone to spindle cell carcinoma. Smoking or chewing tobacco, sun exposure, alcohol use, and exposure to certain chemicals may raise the risk of developing this and other types of cancer. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a proper weight and activity level may help to reduce the risk of spindle cell carcinoma along with other diseases.

Spindle cell carcinoma is a relatively rare form of cancer. One of the main symptoms of the disease is a mass or tumor on the skin, sometimes resembling an ulcer or sore. It is more common in areas that have been exposed to the sun, although this is not always the case. The elderly are more at risk for developing this illness than those under the age of 40, but it is known to strike younger patients as well. Once the cancer has spread to other areas, symptoms can include fatigue, nausea, pain, and bruising. Exact symptoms will depend on where the cancer has spread.

Any sores that do not heal with proper treatment within three to four weeks should be examined by a doctor. Sunscreen should be used any time one is out in the sun, not only during the summer months. Sun exposure should be limited during the brightest period the day, which is generally between 11 in the morning and three in the afternoon. Any large mass, ulcer, sore, or discolored areas of skin should be checked by a trained medical professional.

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