Malignant fibrous histiocytoma

November 12, 2012

Malignant fibrous histiocytoma

This is a tumor of the soft tissues or bones and often occurs in the arms or legs but can develop in other areas of the body.

This enlarged mass is painless and symptoms may include low blood sugar levels, weight loss and fever.

Malignant fibrous histiocytoma is a rare condition in which there is a tumor of the bone or soft tissues. The disease is the most common soft tissue cancer that is diagnosed in older adults, and is often diagnosed in people between the ages of 50 and 70. It normally shows in the arms or legs but there are cases where the tumor has developed in the kidneys, lungs, muscles and abdomen.

At present there is no exact cause as to why malignant fibrous histiocytoma develops. But there is research available which shows certain people are at a higher risk of developing the condition. The people with the increased risks include those with a history of: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, sickle cell disease, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Paget’s disease. If they have had radiation treatment for cancer then they also have an increased risk.

A common symptom that is seen with this soft tissue type of malignant condition may be a fracture and this would be an indication that the disease has affected the bones. There are various symptoms of this disease and they are dependent on the size and the location of the tumor. Some symptoms which may be experienced are losing weight, fever and having low levels of blood sugar. These symptoms may be related to other health problems and not to a malignant fibrous histiocytoma so it is very important to make an appointment with the doctor.

Should a doctor have any suspicions that a patient has malignant fibrous histiocytoma then a physical examination would be carried out in the first instance. They will also ask questions about the personal and family medical history and make recommendations to have more tests to be carried out.

The tests which may be requested are an x-ray, MRI and CT scan. A bone scan and biopsy could also be carried out.

Once a diagnosis of a malignant fibrous histiocytoma is confirmed tests may be carried out to monitor progress, if any, on whether cancer cells have spread to other areas of the body. This is known as staging. And at present the various types of this malignant condition have no system of staging. It appears that the patients are put into groups based on whether the disease is localized (one area of the body) or it has metastasized (spread to another area of the body).

The treatment plan will be determined on how far the disease has spread and the location of the cancer.

Treatment is normally very similar to treating osteosarcoma and patients appear to respond in much the same way. The options of treatment available are based on the age and general health of the patient, the location of the tumor and whether it is localized or metastatized. The course of treatment would normally include chemotherapy and surgery. In order to develop a treatment plan which will work for the patient it is important for the doctor and patient to work together.

Chemotherapy may be required in treating a localized malignant fibrous histiocytoma and then surgery may be performed to remove the surrounding tissue and the tumor.

If a patient has cancer cells that have metastasized and they cannot be removed with surgery then the prognosis is poor. The prognosis of a patient with a malignant fibrous histiocytoma will depend on the age and health of the patient, the location and size of the tumor, is the tumor localized or metastatic and the appearance of the cells when viewed with a microscope.

It appears that in the majority of patients with this condition the rate of survival varies between 25% to 55%.

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