Angiosarcoma of the breast
This page tells you about a rare type of breast cancer called angiosarcoma. You can read about
Angiosarcomas are a type of soft tissue sarcoma. They are cancers that start in the cells that make up the walls of blood vessels or lymphatic vessels. There are 2 main types. Haemangiosarcomas start in blood vessel walls and lymphangiosarcomas start in lymph vessel walls. But doctors don't tend to refer to these different types, and generally just use the term angiosarcoma.
Breast angiosarcomas are very rare and it is difficult to find much information about them. Medical journals and textbooks contain very few reports of primary breast angiosarcomas. Most reported cases are in younger women. They are more likely in women who have already had treatment for breast cancer with surgery and radiotherapy, some years previously. They tend to grow very quickly and are generally difficult to successfully treat.
The symptoms may be similar to other types of breast cancer, including
- A lump or thickening in an area of the breast
- A change in the size or shape of a breast
- Dimpling of the skin
- A change in the shape of your nipple, particularly if it turns in, sinks into the breast, or has an irregular shape
- A blood stained discharge from the nipple
- A rash on a nipple or surrounding area
- A swelling or lump in the armpit
Angiosarcomas also often show changes in the skin colour around the lump. There is not always a lump, and they may show up as an area of skin that has changed in colour or appearance.
Your GP usually refers you to a specialist breast clinic. At the breast clinic the doctor or specialist nurse takes your medical history and examines your breasts. They also feel for any enlarged lymph nodes under your arms and at the base of your neck. You will have some of the following tests.
- A mammogram (an X-ray of the breasts).
- An ultrasound (if you are under 35 you are more likely to have an ultrasound scan instead of a mammogram)
- A biopsy – a small sample of cells or tissue is taken from your breast and looked at under a microscope
Because breast angiosarcomas are so rare, there is no established standard treatment. Removal of the breast (mastectomy) and chemotherapy are the most likely choices of treatment. The chemotherapy drugs may be different from those usually used to treat other types of breast cancer. There is no standard chemotherapy combination. Radiotherapy may not be possible if you have had radiotherapy for breast cancer in the past.
You can also find information about breast cancer treatments in this section.
You can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions that you have.
Our breast cancer organisations page gives details of other people who can provide information about breast cancer and its treatment. Some organisations can put you in touch with a cancer support group.
If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.
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