A malignant fibrous histiocytoma is a type of cancerous tumor that is often found in soft tissue such as muscles and tendons, although it can also develop in bones in rare cases.
Also called pleomorphic undifferentiated sarcoma, malignant fibrous histiocytoma usually occurs in the legs, arms, or abdomen.
What causes malignant fibrous histiocytoma?
The exact cause of malignant fibrous histiocytoma is still unknown, although research is underway to find more about the condition.
This rare form of cancer has been associated with other medical conditions, such as Paget’s disease. Risk of developing the disease is higher if you have a history of radiation therapy or are advanced in age.
What are the symptoms of malignant fibrous histiocytoma?
Malignant fibrous histiocytoma replaces healthy bone tissue with cancer cells. These cancer cells make the bone weaker and increase the risk of fractures. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Pain in the muscle, tendon, or other tumor site
- Swelling over a bone or joint
- Lump that can be felt under the skin
Since these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer, your doctor will order tests to confirm a diagnosis and rule out other causes.
How is malignant fibrous histiocytoma diagnosed?
Your doctor will take your medical history, assess your symptoms, and perform a physical exam. They may order one or more of the following tests:
- X-ray: X-ray is the first imaging test that will show whether you have a tumor or other medical condition.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): CT or MRI scans can provide detailed images of the tumor and can help your doctor assess the extent of the tumor.
- Biopsy: The only way to confirm cancer is via a biopsy, which involves removing a small piece of the tumor and sending it for lab analysis to check for cancer cells.
- Other tests: Bone scan, chest X-ray, chest CT, or positron emission tomography scan may be ordered to see if the cancer has spread. If it spreads, it is most likely to be found in the lungs.
How is malignant fibrous histiocytoma treated?
Treatment for malignant histiocytoma is based on the following factors:
- Size of the tumor
- Location of the tumor
- Extent of the tumor
- Whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body
- Your age, overall health, and preferences
Treatment options for malignant histiocytoma include:
- Surgery: Surgery to remove the tumor is the first line of treatment for malignant histiocytoma. Your doctor may remove adjacent tissues, such as muscle, tendon, or bone, if the cancer has spread.
- Radiation: After surgery, the tumor area may be exposed to high-energy X-rays to help kill any cancer cells left in the body.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is generally planned after the surgery to get rid of any remaining cancer cells. If the tumor is too large to be removed via surgery, chemotherapy may be administered before surgery to shrink the tumor.
- Clinical trials: You can ask your doctor if you can participate in clinical trials that test the use of new treatments for malignant histiocytoma.
- Palliative care: Palliative care involves alleviating pain and offering emotional support. You may opt for palliative care if you do not want to undergo cancer treatment and just want to take measures to reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life. This also includes talking to a mental health professional for counseling.
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Stacy GS. Pleomorphic Sarcoma (Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma) of Soft Tissue Imaging. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/391453-overview
National Institutes of Health. Malignant fibrous histiocytoma. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/malignant-fibrous-histiocytoma
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