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Angiosarcoma is a rare cancer that starts in the cells that line blood vessels or lymph vessels. Many times it's a complication of previous radiation treatment to the breast. It can happen 8-10 years after getting radiation treatment to the breast.
Angiosarcoma can cause skin changes like purple colored nodules and/or a lump in the breast. It can also occur in the affected arms of women with lymphedema, but this is not common. (Lymphedema is swelling that can develop after surgery or radiation therapy to treat breast cancer.)
One or more of the following imaging tests may be done to check for breast changes:
Angiosarcoma is diagnosed by a biopsy, removing a small piece of the breast tissue and looking at it closely in the lab. Only a biopsy can tell for sure that it is cancer.
Angiosarcomas tend to grow and spread quickly. Treatment usually includes surgery to remove the breast (mastectomy). The axillary lymph nodes are typically not removed. Radiation might be given in certain cases of angiosarcomas that are not related to prior breast radiation. For more information on sarcomas, see Soft Tissue Sarcoma.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Chugh R, Sabel MS, and Feng M. Breast sarcoma: Treatment. In Shah S, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, Mass.: UpToDate, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com. Last updated November 13, 2020. Accessed August 30, 2021.
Chugh R, Sabel MS, and Feng M. Breast sarcoma: Epidemiology, risk factors, clinical presentation, diagnosis, and staging. In Shah S, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, Mass.: UpToDate, 2021. https://www.uptodate.com. Last updated March 30, 2021. Accessed August 30, 2021.
Esteva FJ and Gutiérrez C. Chapter 64: Nonepithelial Malignancies of the Breast. In: Harris JR, Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK, eds. Diseases of the Breast. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott-Williams & Wilkins; 2014.
Singer S, Tap WD, Kirsch DG, and Crago AM. Chapter 88: Soft Tissue Sarcoma. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.
Van Tine BA. Chapter 90: Sarcomas of Soft Tissue. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2020.
Last Revised: November 19, 2021
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