The following is a brief overview of Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans, or DFSP. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with DFSP, it is important that you direct any questions that you might have to your doctor or another medical professional. However, the information below can be used as a quick guide to the disease in order to help you ask more informed questions.
An Overview of Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans
DFSP is rare type of soft tissue sarcoma (cancer) that grows in the depths of the skin. It is often described as possessing tentacles that encroach onto local fat, muscle and bones. Most instances of DFSP are located in the torso; however, it has also been found on the arms, legs, head and neck.
Although DFSP often reappears in the same places, it spreads to other parts of the body less than five percent of the time.
DFSP is typically first noticed as a small, firm patch of skin with a diameter of one to five centimeters. Sometimes, the skin is flat or recessed and can take on a variety of hues, including purple or red. DFSP tumors grow slowly over months and years, and can turn into a raised nodule, which could lead to it being interpreted as a more benign skin condition.
As mentioned, DFSP is rare, usually diagnosed in about 1000 adults ages 20 to 50 each year (although DFSP can affect people of all ages). Black patients are affected twice as often as white patients.
Signs and Symptoms of DFSP
It is unknown what causes this particular type of skin cancer. However, a postoperative scar or a scar from a burn can increase the risk for DFSP. In addition, women and blacks are more likely to develop DFSP.
Typically the first sign of DFSP that people notice is a flat or slightly raised patch of skin, which feels rubbery or hard to the touch. This patch of skin can look like a scar or wrinkle and could be violet, red-brown or colorless. Sometimes, DFSP is recessed rather than raised.
As DFSP develops, a violet, red-brown or colorless tumor will appear. Sometimes multiple tumors appear. It a tumor has appeared, then DFSP is growing more quickly and the tumors can crack open, bleed and become painful. This only happens in about fifteen percent of cases, though.
You should see a dermatologist if the growth does not go away within two weeks, a scar changes or anything on your skin is growing or changing quickly.
Treatment of DFSP
Dermatologists typically use Mohs micrographic surgery, which removes one layer of skin at a time. Each layer of skin is examined under a microscope for cancer cells, and the layers are continuously removed until no more cancer cells are found. With larger tumors, excision is the preferred method. Here, the DFSP is removed as well as a portion of normal skin, in order to prevent local recurrence.