Connective tissue cancer is an umbrella term for both benign and malignant tumors of the connective tissue. They develop from special connective tissue cells, the fibroblasts, which are physiologically responsible for the structure of the connective tissue. When these cells degenerate, the production and reproduction of connective tissue takes place unhindered. Depending on whether the cancer is benign or malignant, one speaks of either a fibroma or a fibrosarcoma. Benign fibromas can be further subdivided into hard fibromas or soft fibromas.

Causes of connective tissue cancer

The exact cause of the development of connective tissue cancer is not yet known. One possibility for the development of a benign fibroma is a defect in the embryonic development of the body tissue.

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With regard to malignant fibrosarcomas, the following causes are discussed:

Contact with chemicals such as Weed control agents or dioxins, which can result from the incineration of household waste, are possible causes for the development of malignant fibrosarcomas.

Malignant connective tissue tumors are also found in certain genetic diseases, such as neurofibromatosis type 1 (Recklinghausen's disease) or Li-Fraumeni syndrome. After radiation therapy for cancer, the increased incidence of i.a. Fibrosarcomas observed.

There is also the possibility that a benign fibroid could develop into a malignant fibrosarcoma; however, this is very rare and mostly associated with genetic diseases such as Recklinghausen's disease. Some form of congenital conjunctival cancer rarely occurs in young children.

Read more about radiation therapy at: Treatment with radiation therapy

Diagnosis of connective tissue cancer

The diagnosis of a fibroma is made clinically, usually by the dermatologist (dermatologist) to whom the patient has turned because of a visually conspicuous, usually painless skin change.

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If malignancy is suspected, a tissue sample is removed as part of the surgical removal (biopsy) and then examined. When a fibrosarcoma is diagnosed, imaging procedures such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used to further assess the tumor.

You can recognize connective tissue cancer by these symptoms

Connective tissue cancer is initially characterized by a painless, enlarged area under the skin.

Benign fibromas also have specific locations on the body. Soft fibromas are particularly common in the neck, armpit, groin and, in women, below the breast. They are skin colored.

Hard fibromas, on the other hand, are often found in the legs and look darker due to embedded color pigments. Hard fibromas can be recognized with the so-called Fitzpatrick sign, in which the affected area is pressed together with the thumb and forefinger, whereupon it sinks into the skin. Fibromas stop growing in the course of their development and then retain their existing size.

Malignant fibrosarcomas are less than 10% of connective tissue tumors. They are more difficult to detect and are often diagnosed as an incidental finding during a tissue sample (biopsy). Fibrosarcomas, like fibroids, are painless for a long time, but gradually increase in size over time. From a size of 5 cm one should think of a fibrosarcoma. In the case of very large tumors, the affected area of ​​the body can also fail.

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Connective tissue cancer treatment

No further action is required for benign fibroids. In otherwise healthy patients without pre-existing genetic diseases, there is no risk of the fibroma becoming malignant. If the affected area of ​​the skin is bothersome to the patient, the fibroma can be surgically removed. This is done by the dermatologist in a small outpatient procedure.

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In the case of malignant fibrosarcoma, surgical treatment is necessary. The sarcoma must be surgically removed over a large area, as this type of cancer tends to grow again in certain places, so-called local recurrences. Before the operation, chemotherapy can be given to shrink the tumor before removal and thus improve the postoperative outcome. Radiation therapy can also be performed both before and after an operation.

Read more on this topic at: Conducting chemotherapy and Hair growth after chemotherapy

What are the chances of a cure in connective tissue cancer?

Since the benign fibroma does not require any therapy, the prognosis is correspondingly good.

In malignant fibrosarcoma, the chances of recovery depend on how far the tumor has already grown in the patient's body. If there are no secondary tumors (metastases), the tumor has not yet grown large or has been reduced in size by therapy prior to the operation, the chance of completely removing the cancer is good.

However, fibrosarcoma also quickly metastasizes. If these are already present, a complete healing is usually no longer possible.

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