The retroperitoneum is the space between the peritoneum and the posterior abdominal wall that contains the kidneys and associated structures, the pancreas, and part of the aorta and inferior vena cava.
Approximately 15 percent of soft tissue sarcomas arise in the retroperitoneum. One third of malignant tumors that arise in the retroperitoneum are sarcomas. Soft tissue sarcomas are rare, with approximately 8,600 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States—less than one percent of all newly diagnosed malignancies.
Evaluation and treatment of retroperitoneal sarcomas are challenging because RPS tumors are relatively rare and frequently present with advanced disease in an anatomically complex location. Retroperitoneal sarcomas smaller than five cm are rarely seen because they are not noted by the patient until they have become larger in size.
Survival rates are all affected by the large tumor size on presentation, the inability to achieve wide surgical margins and the limitations of treating retroperitoneal sarcoma with radiation and chemotherapy.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors for RPS include the following inherited disorders:
Retroperitoneal sarcomas most commonly present as an abdominal mass, often without other symptoms. Although the median patient age is approximately fifty years, retroperitoneal sarcomas occur at any age and arise equally in women and men. When symptoms are present, they relate to the mass effect of the tumor or to local invasion.
Retroperitoneal may cause the following symptoms:
Loss of appetite or weight loss
Early satiety (feeling full after eating only a small amount)
You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to determine your course of treatment. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced surgical oncologist are important to the successful outcome for patients with RPS.
The day of surgery, you will be cared for in the operating room by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in surgery for patients with RPS. After surgery, you will recover in the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.
The Center for Sarcoma and Bone Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center provides advanced and innovative multidisciplinary care for patients with sarcoma, including RPS. Our treatment team includes surgical oncologists, medical and radiation oncologists, plastic surgeons, nutritionists, pathologists and anesthesiologists. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community with its diverse specialists and state-of-the-art facilities.