What is a Desmoid Tumor?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2019
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A desmoid tumor is a type of tumor that is generally considered benign, because it does not spread throughout the rest of the body. Diagnosed mainly in people between the ages of 15 and 60, it commonly forms in the tissue of ligaments and tendons within the legs, arms, and torso but can also develop in the head and neck. Despite the fact that it does not metastasize or spread, this tumor, which has the appearance of scar tissue, can invade surrounding tissues, causing organs to be destroyed.

Scientists do not know what causes desmoid tumors, but they are often diagnosed in people who have a family history of a colon cancer called polyposis coli. They are difficult to remove in patients because they wrap around organs and internal structures of the body. Although the disease progresses slowly, it can be fatal if not effectively treated.

Symptoms of a desmoid tumor include swelling, a painful lump, pain in the bowels, muscle pain, and limping. The symptoms vary according to the size and location of the desmoid tumor. When a physician suspects that the patient is suffering from this tumor, he or she will order a biopsy. During this procedure, a sample of the tumor's tissue is taken in order for it to be examined. If the tumor is small, it may be removed during the biopsy procedure.


Ultrasound is another method used to diagnose the tumor. This painless procedure captures images that detect the presence of the desmoid tumor. A computed tomography (CT) scan can also be used to take pictures of the internal body in order to detect this medical condition. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another method of capturing images that may show the presence of a desmoid tumor.

Several treatments are used to combat a desmoid tumor. Usually, the doctor will decide that surgery is necessary to remove the tumor. Unfortunately, these tumors can often return after completion of the surgical procedure. If surgery is unsuccessful or not an option, patients sometimes have to undergo chemotherapy, drugs that are employed to kill cancer cells.

Another possible treatment is radiation therapy. With this particular type of treatment, radiation is used to kill or shrink cancer cells. Hormone therapy is another kind of treatment used by doctors. Physicians sometimes prescribe anti-hormonal medication to patients since hormones accelerate the growth of a desmoid tumor. Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to the patient, as this medicine helps to relieve pain and sometimes causes cancer cells to shrink.


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Post 7

I have a desmoid tumour in my media sternal line. I have decided not to have surgery as they can grow back and surgery would mean a year's convalescence in my case because of the position. A cyst isn't the same as it can be removed, and you most possibly wouldn't need radiotherapy afterwards, unlike a desmoid.

I am 66, fit and healthy and can do all things I have always managed, so why rock the boat? Desmoids are stem cell related, hence their odd compositions.

Post 6

What about if a desmoid tumor is diagnosed in someone outside of the normal age range? Are very young or very old people more likely to have problems or a worse prognosis if diagnosed with a desmoid tumor?

Post 4

@tolleranza- that's a really good description of a lesion, I haven't even had a doctor be that clear to me. I have also had cysts before, which doctors would refer to as lesions as well. I thought of lesions as something different though, and didn't really know the difference. It makes sense, though, that they would be more of a larger category, while these desmoid tumors and cysts are subgroups.

Post 3

@snickerish - I think the main thing that makes a desmoid tumor and a cyst alike is just what you mentioned, that they are benign.

Both desmoid tumor and cysts are considered lesions because a lesion describes a change that stays within a specific area of an organ or tissue.

Post 2

I did my regular self breast exam, and couldn't believe that I found a tiny one bump!

I was pretty proud when I went to the doctor and he had trouble finding it because it was so small (I thought, "I'm glad I am being so thorough in my exam.")

So I had to have an ultrasound on it to determine what kind of lump it was and it was just a cyst. My doctor said, just like this desmoid tumor that they don't know where the cysts come from but they are not harmful.

I wonder what difference there is between a desmoid tumor and a cyst…

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