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Desmoid Tumors - Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Feb 18, 2021 and last reviewed on Nov 25, 2022   -  4 min read


Desmoid tumors are abnormal growths that originate from the connective tissue. Read more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for a desmoid tumor.


Tumors are abnormal growths of tissues and can be found in any part of the body. It can be cancerous or noncancerous. Desmoid tumors are present in the connective tissues and are noncancerous. Most commonly, they are found in the abdomen, legs, and arms.

They are not like fatty tumors. Fatty tumors will grow under the skin and are called lipomas, but desmoids tumors grow in the connective tissues that form the ligaments and tendons. "Desmoid" has been derived from the Greek word "Desmos," meaning tendon or band-like.

There are various terms for this tumor as follows:

Desmoid tumors can be slow-growing and do not require immediate treatment, or they can grow quickly and require surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or other drugs for treatment.

Desmoid tumors are not classified as cancers as they do not spread to the adjacent or other parts of the body. But they can act more like cancers as they are aggressive and may invade the adjacent tissues or organs sometimes.

What Are Its Salient Features?

Frequency - Reports show that desmoids tumors account for nearly 0.03% of all tumors. The prevalence can be even 13% in patients with a history of familial polyposis of the colon.

Sex - These tumors are more commonly known to occur in women post-childbirth. The frequency is twice in females when compared to males. In children, the incidence related to gender is equal.

Age - These tumors can occur in all age groups but are more frequently seen involving individuals aged 10-40 years.

What Are The Symptoms?

The symptoms of desmoid tumors depend on the involved site. Desmoid tumors most often happen in the abdomen, arms, and legs, and they can be found anywhere in the body. The most commonly observed symptoms are as follows:

  • Swelling or presence of any mass

  • Pain, especially n the affected area

  • There can be a loss of function in the affected area

  • Cramping and nausea can be experienced by patients having desmoids tumors in the abdomen.

What Are The Causes?

The cause of desmoid tumors is not yet clear. The explained mechanism is that these tumors may form because of alteration in the DNA of connective tissue.

Are There Any Risk Factors?

Yes, certain factors may increase the risk of getting desmoids tumors, and they are as follows:

1. Young adults.

2. Genetic syndromes causing colon polyps like in people having familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).

3. Pregnancy. Though not so common, desmoids tumors may occur in a pregnant woman or after pregnancy.

4. Individuals who have had recent injury or surgery.

How Can It Be Diagnosed?

When you visit your physician, specific questions will be asked to know about your symptoms and medical history, and later, the following examinations will be done to come to a diagnosis and stage the disease along with planning the treatment:

  • Physical examination.

  • Ultrasound of the abdomen can be performed to assess the tissues in that area.

  • Imaging tests. Certain imaging tests will be recommended, like CT and MRI.

  • Biopsy, wherein a part of the affected tissue or complete removal of affected tissue will be done to come to a diagnosis. The sample can be collected using a needle or surgically, and this may depend on the location, type, and extent of the lesion.

How Can It Be Treated?

There are various treatment options available, and they are as follows:

1) Wait and Watch Method - Initially, tumor growth can be monitored. If the lesion or tumor is asymptomatic, you can go ahead with the wait and watch method with regular assessment using imaging techniques. Certain tumors can shrink on their own, but others may require medical or surgical management.

2) Surgery - This option is followed in patients who have signs and symptoms. There can be complete removal of the tumor or partial removal. Partial removal is done in cases where the tumor has extended to adjacent structures involving important structures like nerves, etc. Surgery can be used along with radiotherapy or chemotherapy in such cases.

3) Radiation therapy. This can help in shrinking the tumor tissues using certain radiation beams. Also, it is usually used adjunct to surgery.

4) Chemotherapy - Certain strong medications can be used to kill the tumor cells. Again, this can be used as an adjunct to surgery or radiation therapies or alone sometimes.

Certain other drugs have proven to be beneficial in managing symptoms of desmoids tumors, including anti-inflammatory drugs, targeted therapies, and hormone therapies.

How Is The Prognosis?

The prognosis is good and has high rates. If the diagnosis is made in earlier stages, the prognosis is really good. The desmoid tumor has the potential to cause local infiltration, and this may influence the prognosis as if it involves certain vital structures or organs, it may be challenging to treat it completely, or it may take more time for recovery. Reports have also shown that people who have familial adenomatous polyposis and suffer from intra-abdominal desmoids tumor, it may be fatal for them.

Desmoid tumors are noncancerous tumors that may affect any part of the body. If you develop any mass in your body or find any abnormal symptoms, you should consult your physician soon. Early diagnosis and treatment will improve the prognosis. Online medical platforms are playing a crucial role, especially in this pandemic situation to consult a specialist or physician at the ease of your home. Hence, consult a physician or specialist online to get more details about desmoids tumors.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Causes of the Desmoid Tumor?

Genetic mutation is the main cause of desmoid tumors. These mutations lead to alterations in the cells. The healthy tissues undergo destruction resulting in tumors. A condition called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is also responsible for desmoid tumors.


Is It Possible to Cure Desmoid Tumors?

Yes, it is possible to cure desmoid tumors. Kinase inhibitors are helpful in treating desmoid tumors. Some of the tumors can get cured on their own, while others might require help from radiotherapy.


How Are Desmoid Tumors Removed?

Yes, it is possible to remove a desmoid tumor with surgical methods. The patient will require treatment with other methods also. While performing a surgery, the doctor will remove a part of the healthy tissue also.


Do Patients With Desmoid Tumors Experience Pain?

Desmoid tumors can cause a mild degree of pain. In addition to this, patients also experience pain in the abdomen and rectal bleeding. If the desmoid tumor has not spread to the other regions, then the pain is usually less severe.


What Are the Risk Factors of Desmoid Tumors?

The risk factors associated with desmoid tumor are:
- Pregnancy.
- People who belong to the age group of 20 to 30.
- Any trauma.
- Surgery.
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).


Is Desmoid Tumor a Cancerous Condition?

Desmoid tumor is not considered a cancer. It is only a benign condition. Desmoid tumors do not have a characteristic of spreading to the other organs. It only invades the tissues that are nearby.


How Can You Shrink a Desmoid Tumor?

It is possible to shrink the desmoid tumor with the help of the following methods.
- Medications.
- Chemotherapy.
- Radiotherapy.
- Surgery.
- Hormone therapy.
- Targeted drug therapy.


How Will a Desmoid Tumor Feel?

The desmoid tumor develops like a lump or mass that is abnormal. The patients who are suffering from a desmoid tumor experience a tingling sensation due to the pressure of the tumor on the blood vessels. This is often accompanied by pain and soreness in the muscles and nerves.


How Will Desmoid Tumor Progress?

Desmoid tumors do not grow in a fast manner. In some patients, the occurrence of the desmoid tumors was noted only after six months of operative procedures. In rare cases, it can take up to seven years to develop.


How Common Is a Desmoid Tumor?

Desmoid tumor is a very rare condition. Medical reports suggest that only one or two patients are affected by desmoid tumor out of 500,000 worldwide. In the United States of America, each year, approximately 900 new cases are identified. The sporadic type is the most common variant.


Is a Desmoid Tumor a Dangerous Condition?

A desmoid tumor is not a very dangerous condition. The other name for the desmoid tumor is aggressive fibromatosis. When a desmoid tumor is known to impinge the vital organs such as lungs, kidneys, and intestine, then it can be a fatal condition.

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Last reviewed at:
25 Nov 2022  -  4 min read




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