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A hemangiopericytoma (HPC) is a type of vascular tumor. It is very rare and may be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). Hemangiopericytomas are categorized as a soft tissue sarcoma. This type of tumor is produced in tendons, fat, blood vessels, muscles, fibrous tissues and nerves. Most commonly, the tumor is reported in the bones, neck, head and lower extremities.
Individuals of any age and gender can develop a hemangiopericytoma. Generally, this tumor comes from cells in connection to the capillaries, known as pericytes. Although there is no identifiable reason why this type of tumor forms, certain factors may play into their formation. It may develop from a type of genetic mutation. If multiple members of one family develop the tumors, they may also be inherited.
The symptoms of a hemangiopericytoma may depend on where the tumor is located. Individuals with a tumor in the lower extremities may experience pain. They may be sore in certain areas and find it difficult to use the part of the body affected by the tumor. If the growth is large enough, a noticeable lump may also be visible.
A malignant hemangiopericytoma may metastasize to other parts of the body. Most commonly, it spreads into the lungs. Individuals with tumors in this location may experience different types of symptoms. He or she may have difficulty breathing. The person may also have a lingering cough and experience excessive sweating at night.
A biopsy can be conducted to confirm a hemangiopericytoma and to determine whether it is cancerous or not. Commonly, blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) will be done to examine the blood. Diagnostic imaging scans may additionally be performed. For visible tumors in the lower extremities, a bone scan may be ordered. Other tests may include a computerized tomography (CT) scan and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Surgery is commonly performed to treat this rare tumor. In malignant cases, surgery may be done to remove as much of the cancer as possible. Benign tumors may also be removed by surgery. Doctors will complete a variety of tests to decide the best type of surgery to perform. Generally, this will depend on the size, location and symptoms caused by the hemangiopericytoma.
Often, a patient may receive other kinds of treatment before, after or instead of surgery. Radiation may be given as a form of treatment to individuals with a malignant hemangiopericytoma. In addition, chemotherapy may be prescribed. Individuals with large malignant tumors may have these types of treatments to shrink tumors before going into surgery. People with very small, but malignant tumors, may have these types of therapy as a singular treatment.