Angiosarcoma of the breast is a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer. It grows rapidly and often has an unfavorable outlook due to its rarity.
Angiosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that starts in the cells that line the blood vessels and lymph vessels. While it can occur anywhere in the body, it
Angiosarcoma of the breast makes up less than
In this article, we discuss angiosarcoma of the breast, its symptoms, and outlook.
Angiosarcoma of the breast is an uncommon form of breast cancer. Unlike the most common types of breast cancers that begin in ducts or lobules, this disease begins in epithelial cells or cells that line blood vessels and lymph vessels.
The rapid growth and spread characterize angiosarcoma of the breast. It has an unfavorable outlook due to the lack of established treatment guidelines, owing to its rarity.
There are two types of angiosarcoma of the breast:
This type occurs in people who never received treatment for breast cancer. It usually presents with an indefinite lump or mass, begins in the breast tissue, and then enters nearby skin and subcutaneous tissue. It tends to commonly affect younger women in their
Symptoms of angiosarcoma of the breast depend on the type and whether it spreads to other body areas.
Primary angiosarcoma symptoms
The symptoms of
- a feeling of fullness in the breast
- discolored rash or bruise-like appearance on the skin
- purple-colored nodules, which are abnormal growths in the skin
- swelling of the breast
- a rapidly growing breast
Secondary angiosarcoma symptoms
The symptoms of secondary angiosarcoma include:
The outlook for both primary and secondary angiosarcoma of the breast is often unfavorable. According to a
The study found that age and tumor spread were strong predictors of low survival rates in secondary and primary angiosarcoma.
The timing of finding the cancer is also a factor, in that the earlier the tumor discovery, then the better the outlook.
The above study showed a more locally advanced tumor stage and high spread of tumors in participants with secondary angiosarcoma. These results suggest the secondary type of this cancer has more aggressive characteristics and spreads faster.
However, a small 2020 study found that participants with secondary angiosarcoma had better responses and survival rates than those with primary.
Recurrence is also common despite tumor removal. However, complete removal of the tumor showed better results than incomplete removal.
A doctor may order several tests to look for breast changes, including location, size, and extent. Imaging tests include:
- Mammogram: This is an X-ray of the breast that looks for breast cancer.
- Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves and abnormal blood flow to detect breast cancer. Medical experts recommend it for people younger than 35.
- MRI: This shows detailed images of breast tissue to detect tumors and their spread.
- PET scan: Doctors can use this test to detect the distant spread of tumors.
A breast biopsy is the primary diagnostic method for breast cancer, where a doctor removes a piece of tissue. It can come from a tumor deep in the breast.
Healthcare professionals may recommend a fine needle aspiration or core needle biopsy for primary angiosarcoma. However, they may also advise a skin punch or incisional biopsy if the affected area is on the outer skin surface of the breast, typical in secondary angiosarcoma.
In a lab, medical professionals analyze the sample by viewing it under a microscope for diagnosis based on changes in cell structure. They can stain samples with markers such as CD31 and CD34, highly sensitive markers for vascular tumors, which are cancerous tumors formed from blood vessels or lymph vessels.
Angiosarcomas grow and spread rapidly, requiring urgent and aggressive treatment. But because the disease is so rare, there is currently
Doctors typically recommend removing part of the breast or the entire breast. They typically
People with primary angiosarcoma may receive radiation therapy, but it is not as effective for those with secondary angiosarcoma.
The same 2017 study found that people with secondary angiosarcoma had lower overall survival when receiving adjuvant radiation.
Doctors may also give chemotherapy or targeted drugs, but the medications may differ from those used in common types of breast cancer.
A 2019 research review described genetic mutations and altered protein expressions in the disease, showing that targeted therapy can potentially be more effective than traditional chemotherapy.
There are ongoing clinical trials to look for more effective treatments for angiosarcoma of the breast. Current clinical trials involve combinations of cytotoxic chemotherapies, immunotherapies, and targeted therapies.
Angiosarcoma of the breast is a rare and aggressive type of breast cancer. It may appear on its own, or it may occur from getting radiation therapy to treat breast cancer.
Its symptoms are nonspecific, making it difficult for people to distinguish it from nonmalignant skin conditions. Getting a biopsy is typically the best way to diagnose the condition.
Due to its rarity, there are currently no established guidelines for its treatment. However, treatment options such as mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy, are available. Clinical trials are ongoing for immunotherapies, targeted therapies, and cytotoxic chemotherapies.