Spleen cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

Spleen cancer symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

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Splenic tumors - sarcomas, lymphomas, spleen metastases

Cancer in the spleen can occur in the form of sarcomas, malignant lymphomas and spleen metastases. The prognosis for cancer is rather poor, but not all tumors in the area of ​​the spleen are malignant. The splenic tumors (splenomegaly) can, for example, also be the result of infectious diseases, rheumatic diseases, cirrhosis of the liver or inflammation of the pancreas.

  • definition: Spleen cancer is a colloquial collective term for various tumor diseases in the area of ​​the spleen, such as sarcomas, lymphomas and spleen metastases.
  • Symptoms: Many types of spleen cancer do not show clear indicators. Chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, increased susceptibility to infection, abdominal pain and nausea are possible symptoms.
  • diagnosis: After scanning, imaging methods such as ultrasound, CT or MRI are used if suspected. If necessary, a tissue sample provides the unambiguous finding.
  • therapy: The treatment depends on the type of tumor. Surgery and / or radiation therapy are often used.


"Spleen cancer" is the colloquial term for tumor diseases in the area of ​​the spleen, whereby experts refer to sarcomas, malignant lymphomas and spleen metastases. Theoretically, these cancers can occur anywhere in the body on corresponding tissue structures, so that the term spleen cancer is actually not correct. Because this suggests that it is an explicit disease of the spleen. For the sake of simplicity, the term "spleen cancer" is still used.


A noticeable enlargement of the organ is characteristic of splenic cancer, but this can initially be more or less asymptomatic. Possible causative cancers (lymph gland cancer, sarcomas, cancers with metastasis), in turn, cause quite remarkable symptoms. Malignant lymphomas often show symptoms such as:

  • Lymph node swelling,
  • chronic fatigue,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Night sweats,
  • a generally increased susceptibility to infection.

No clear indicators

However, none of these symptoms are suitable as a reliable indicator, since they can also occur in connection with numerous other diseases. In the further course of the disease, those affected often suffer from complaints due to the tumorous enlargement of the spleen, which are caused by pressure on the surrounding tissue structures and organs. These complaints include:

  • Stomach pain,
  • a feeling of pressure in the abdomen,
  • Nausea,
  • radiating pain in the left shoulder.

Cancer in the spleen

Cancer in the spleen area can occur in the form of malignant (malignant) lymphomas, sarcomas and as metastases of other cancers. The symptoms and the chances of recovery are extremely different for the different forms of spleen cancer, so that the individual forms are considered differently here.

Malignant Lymphoma / Lymph Gland Cancer

A common form of cancer in the spleen is malignant lymphoma, which is divided into the Hodgkin-Lyphome and Non-Hodgkin-Lymphoma. These diseases, also known as lymph gland cancer, are caused by malignant changes in the lymphatic system. In addition to the lymph nodes, lymph channels and tonsils (tonsils), the spleen also belongs to the lymphatic system.

Here there is an uncontrolled increase in lymphocytes (cellular components of the blood) and related cell forms. Although the lymph gland cancer often initially affects locally limited structures, theoretically tissue structures can be affected throughout the body, since the lymphocytes may spread via the blood and lymphatic systems. It is therefore a systemic disease, even if the lymphatic cancer may be located in the spleen.


In rare cases, these malignant tumor diseases originating from the connective tissue can also affect the area of ​​the spleen. There are numerous different types of sarcomas, with angiosarcomas being primarily responsible for splenic cancer. They start from the endothelium (thin wall layer of lymph and blood vessels) and are divided into hemangiosarcomas and lymphangiosarcomas. A bloated abdomen can often be observed as a conspicuous symptom of sarcomas in the spleen area, but these special cancers can go on for a long time without recognizable symptoms.


In theory, any metastatic cancer can affect the lymphatic system and thus the spleen. In contrast to lymph gland cancer, it is not the uncontrolled increase in lymphocytes that is causing the complaints, but the immigration of cancer cells from metastatic tumors.


Palpation (palpation) is a good start in the diagnosis of splenic tumors if symptoms appear suspicious, since enlargements of the spleen can often be palpated. Usually the spleen should not be felt when palpating the abdomen. Larger splenic tumors can be felt when inhaled below the left costal arch. With the help of imaging methods such as ultrasound examinations, computer tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, the change in the spleen is more precisely limited. If a sarcoma, malignant lymphoma or metastases are suspected, the subsequent taking of a tissue sample (biopsy) ensures the diagnosis.


The treatment of spleen cancer depends primarily on the underlying cancer and the stage of the disease. The healing prospects are extremely different. For example, many non-Hodgkin's lymphomas can be completely eliminated with the help of chemotherapy, while in the case of metastatic cancers it is often only possible to delay the course of the disease.

Treatment for spleen metastases

In spleen metastases, a so-called splenectomy (surgical removal of the organ) may also be carried out in advance of chemotherapy in order to achieve a maximum reduction in tumor tissue and thus increase the prospect of successful treatment. Although those affected can continue to live without a spleen, they are subject to certain risks, such as an increased susceptibility to infection with certain bacteria, which can cause pneumonia, meningitis, otitis media and sinus infections. Furthermore, the risk of thrombosis increases after a splenectomy.

Treatment for angiosarcomas

Radical surgical removal of the tumor tissue is also necessary for angiosarcomas, whereby the prospects for treatment can be further increased by subsequent chemotherapy and / or radiation therapy. However, the overall prognosis for angiosarcomas is rather poor. The 5-year survival rate, for example, is given by cardiologists from the University Hospital Regensburg at 12 to 24 percent.

Influences on treatment prospects

The age and general constitution of those affected and the time of diagnosis also have a significant influence on the treatment prospects, so that the individual prognosis can be significantly better. In addition, early stage cancer can generally be treated more successfully than advanced disease. (fp, vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Merck and Co., Inc .: Enlarged spleen (enlarged: July 17, 2019), msdmanuals.com
  • Amboss GmbH: Splenomegaly (accessed: July 17, 2019), amboss.com
  • Walter de Gruyter GmbH: Splenomegaly (accessed: July 17, 2019), pschyrembel.de
  • Mayo Clinic: Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) (access: July 17, 2019), mayoclinic.org
  • National Health Service UK: Spleen problems and spleen removal (accessed: 07/17/2019), nhs.uk
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine: Spleen Diseases (accessed: July 17, 2019), medlineplus.gov

ICD codes for this disease: D37, D73ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

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