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Angiosarcoma Follow-up

  • Author: Belen Carsi, MD, PhD, FRCS; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
Updated: Jun 20, 2016

Further Outpatient Care

Soft-tissue and bone angiosarcomas

Recurrent neoplasms typically (80% of cases) develop within 2 years of the resection. Thus, the follow-up should be extremely stringent, ie, every 3 months in the first 2 years.

A chest radiograph every 6 months during this period is mandatory. If the chest radiograph reveals a suspicious nodule, obtain a CT scan of the chest for confirmation.

MRI is the most accurate technique for detecting locally recurrent or residual sarcoma. The baseline postoperative MRI examination serves a vital role in the evaluation.

After the first 2 years, schedule visits every 6 months for the next 3 years. After 5 years, see patients annually.

The differential diagnosis for signal abnormality on a postoperative MRI includes the following:

  • Residual or recurrent neoplasm
  • Postsurgical/postradiation change
  • Scarring
  • Fluid collection

The residual or recurrent neoplasm usually is a discrete, ovoid, or rounded soft tissue mass. Nonspecific signal characteristics are present, with intermediate-to-low signal intensity in T1-weighted images and high signal on T2-weighted images. It enhances with gadolinium. Comparison with prior postoperative examinations is essential.

Postsurgical/postradiation change usually appears as a regional distribution of signal abnormality, with a linear, trabeculated, or latticelike morphology. This has low-to-intermediate signal on T1-weighted images and high signal on T2-weighted images.

Scars show a linear morphology. Scars correspond with skin thickening and the loss of adjacent subcutaneous fat. A scar has low signal on both T1-weighted images and T2-weighted images, although they can present a linear high-signal intensity on T2-weighted images and a variable enhancement with gadolinium.

Fluid collection develops as an abscess, seroma, or hematoma. Seromas are the most common. They represent a signal intensity lower than muscle on T1-weighted images and high signal on T2-weighted images and are differentiable from recurrence with gadolinium.

Hematomas usually appear in the subacute stage at the time of the first postoperative MRI. Hematomas show a characteristic high signal on T1-weighted images and T2-weighted images from the methemoglobin.

Abscesses present as low signal on T1-weighted images and high signal on T2-weighted images and may show some low-signal intensity depending on the presence of a fibrous capsule. Following gadolinium administration, they appear as a nonenhancing fluid collection with a thick, nodular, peripherally enhancing rim.

Cutaneous angiosarcoma

Patients need clinical examination every 3 months to detect possible recurrences. Palpation of the cervical lymph nodes remains a major tool.

Imaging studies include CT scan and MRI of the head and neck and plain chest radiograph and CT chest scans every 3 months for 1 year, every 6 months for 2 more years, and then annually. Distant metastasis can occur late.


Further Inpatient Care

With larger higher-grade soft-tissue angiosarcomas, adjuvant radiotherapy is effective in reducing local recurrence.

Radiotherapy can be delivered intraoperatively, by brachytherapy, or by external beam. The brachytherapy technique results in rates of tumor control similar to those obtained with external beam, with a similar rate of wound complications. Moreover, it presents the advantage of requiring only 5 days, rather than the 5-6 weeks needed for external beam, and reduces radiation scatter. Brachytherapy is often the technique of choice in angiosarcomas near joints or gonads.

In bone angiosarcoma, specialist use combinations of radiation therapy and chemotherapy as adjuvant methods of treatment, but significant data about their effectiveness are lacking.

In cutaneous angiosarcoma, postoperative radiotherapy is warranted in cases with unsatisfactory margins, large tumor size, deep extension, and multicentricity. Radical radiation therapy in the form of high-field electron beam therapy shows promise in prolonging survival of patients with localized lesions.



Prevention of angiosarcoma is included in cancer prevention guidelines. The reduction of cancer mortality is achieved via reduction in the incidence of cancer.

Prevention strategies include avoiding carcinogens and adopting lifestyle or dietary factors that modify cancer-causing factors or genetic predispositions, alter carcinogen metabolism, or alter end-organ effects of carcinogens. Prevention also includes the successful treatment of preneoplastic lesions.



Complications from radiotherapy include the following:

  • Wound complications
  • Fractures

Complications from chemotherapy include the following:

  • Fever
  • Dose-dependent myelosuppression
  • Nausea and vomiting unresponsive to antiemetics
  • Moderate-to-severe fatigue
  • Alopecia or hemialopecia in intraarterial chemotherapy

Complications from surgery are as follows:

  • Anesthetic complications
  • Blood loss
  • Infection, sepsis
  • Wound complications
  • Iatrogenic neurovascular injury
  • Deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism
  • Limited limb function


Soft-tissue angiosarcoma

Angiosarcoma of the soft tissue is a high-grade sarcoma with a high rate of death and short survival time. A large number of patients, 50% in some series, also had metastasis, and a significant number (20%) had local recurrences.[12]

Older patient age, retroperitoneum location, and larger tumor size are unfavorable prognostic factors. Approximately 66% of retroperitoneal angiosarcomas recur locally in the tumor bed and can recur diffusely throughout the peritoneal cavity (angiosarcomatosis).

Bone angiosarcoma

High-grade angiosarcomas exhibit extremely aggressive behavior with rapid local growth and early disseminated metastasis. Prognosis depends on the histologic grade, with the disease-free survival rate reported as 95% in grade 1 tumors, 62% in grade 2, and 20% in grade 3. Multicentricity does not affect prognosis.

Cutaneous angiosarcoma

Despite aggressive treatment, prognosis is poor. The median survival ranges from 15-24 months, with a 5-year survival rate of 12-33%. Local failure and metastases to local cervical lymph nodes are common. The lung is the most common site of distant metastasis, followed by the liver and bone, although these tend to occur late.

Unlike other sarcomas, grade is not useful in predicting survival. No correlation exists between appearance (eg, ulcerated, nodular, diffuse) and survival or local recurrence.

Findings of significantly favorable prognostic importance appear to be tumor size (< 5 cm), complete surgical resection, and a moderate or marked lymphoid infiltrate in and around the tumor.

Unresectable lesions and metastatic disease at diagnosis suggest a dismal prognosis. Death can occur either from local extension or metastasis. Delayed diagnosis and treatment explain, in part, the poor prognosis of cutaneous angiosarcomas.


Patient Education

For patient education information, see the Cancer Center.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Belen Carsi, MD, PhD, FRCS Consultant, Department of Pediatric Orthopedics, University Hospital Southampton, UK

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Franklin Sim, MD 

Franklin Sim, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Association of Tissue Banks, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Association, American Orthopaedic Association, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, International Skeletal Society, Mid-America Orthopaedic Association, Minnesota Medical Association, Sigma Xi

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Benjamin Movsas, MD 

Benjamin Movsas, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Radiology, American Radium Society, American Society for Radiation Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Sanjiv S Agarwala, MD Chief of Oncology and Hematology, St Luke's Cancer Center, St Luke's Hospital and Health Network; Professor, Temple University Shool of Medicine

Sanjiv S Agarwala, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for Cancer Research, American Head and Neck Society, European Society for Medical Oncology, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group

Disclosure: Received honoraria from BMS for speaking and teaching; Received consulting fee from Novartis for consulting; Received consulting fee from Merck for consulting.

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This is a classic example of angiosarcoma associated with chronic lymphedema after lymphadenectomy and radiotherapy. The patient is a 33-year-old woman who presented with a recurrent grade 2 angiosarcoma of the soft tissue after an attempt at wide excision and skin graft. Two weeks following this procedure, she developed multiple subcutaneous erythematous nodules involving the back and overlying the right scapula region, the supraclavicular fossa, the right breast, and arm. The window shows a microphotograph of the tissue obtained from the biopsy (hematoxylin and eosin stain, original magnification X160). Histologic preparation reveals neoplastic endothelial cells showing a solid pattern with occasional mitotic figures and sporadic protruding growth into the vascular lumens.
This is a gross specimen from a proximal humerus bone angiosarcoma. These tumors generally are red and hemorrhagic. Although the tumor has not extended into the adjacent soft tissues, cortical erosion is evident. The patient was treated with wide excision and reconstruction with a humeral spacer. The patient's next oncologic recheck showed multiple lesions, including a large destructive lesion in the right ilium extending to the sacroiliac joint and the right sacral ala. Also noted was an upper thoracic vertebral lesion, multiple indeterminate pulmonary nodules, extensive hepatic metastases most marked in the left lobe, and an indeterminate left adnexal mass.
This radiograph is from a 27-year-old woman who had preexisting mild pain in her left clavicle for a couple of weeks. She woke up one morning with severe pain. Radiographs showed a pathological fracture through a lytic lesion. The permanent section of the needle biopsy is shown in the window and was read as a grade 1 angiosarcoma. The cell morphology varied from epithelioid to spindle-shaped with indistinct borders. Most nuclei were large and vesicular, containing irregular large eosinophilic nucleoli and frequent mitoses. Physicians also found anastomosing vascular channels lined by pleomorphic malignant cells.
CT scan, MRI, and bone scan from a 27-year-old woman with grade 1 angiosarcoma who presented with a pathological fracture through a lytic lesion on her left clavicle. Note the expansile lytic lesion in the left clavicle accompanied by a soft tissue mass visible on the MRI. No other lesions are identifiable. Regional lymph nodes are visible by MRI, and they do not appear involved. Lungs are clear. She was treated with wide resection of the clavicle, leaving both bony ends. No further reconstruction was attempted. Eighteen months after surgery, she is free of disease and has a full range of motion in the left shoulder. The residual aesthetic deformity is minimal.
This 71-year-old man presented with a dark lesion on his scalp. The lesion was first treated with an excisional biopsy performed by his local physician; the lesion recurred quickly. He was treated with wide excision and adjuvant radiation therapy. The specimen (hematoxylin and eosin, original magnification X12.5) shows a well-differentiated cutaneous angiosarcoma composed of irregular vascular channels.
This young woman presented with multicentric angiosarcoma. The images show several bones of the right foot, the right distal femur, and the right patella affected with the process. The microphotograph of the specimen revealed a grade 2 angiosarcoma (hematoxylin and eosin, original magnification X100). Most bone tumors are solitary lesions with a very low incidence of multicentricity. Vascular tumors are an exception and may involve multiple bones. Angiosarcoma presents in this case as multiple lytic lesions in the same extremity.
This is a soft tissue angiosarcoma presenting as a rapidly growing mass in the calf. This 69-year-old woman was treated with wide resection of the mass followed by external beam radiotherapy. The full-thickness graft obtained from the ipsilateral thigh at the moment of surgery aided in the closure and prevented further wound complications during the adjuvant radiotherapy. The rapid growth of soft tissue angiosarcomas explains why they are often misdiagnosed as abscesses and tentatively treated with drainage. The drainage is sanguinous, with blood clots, and hemostasis may be challenging. To avoid this problem, fine-needle aspiration should precede any attempt at incisional or excisional biopsy of a soft tissue mass.
This 45-year-old man presented with progressive pain in his left hip. Activity-related at first, the pain turned constant. The patient described it as a dull ache and a boring sensation, with occasional stubbing episodes. The pelvic bone involvement was extensive. The patient was treated with an external hemipelvectomy. The patient survived for 1.5 years.
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