Perspectives of Patients With Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans on Diagnostic Delays, Surgical Outcomes, and Nonprotuberance

Marjorie Parker David, Ashley Funderburg, James P. Selig, Rebecca Brown, Pip M. Caliskan, Lee Cove, Gayle Dicker, Lori Hoffman, Tammi Horne, Jerad M. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) may have a deceptively benign clinical appearance, including a nonprotuberant presentation. Patients with DFSP often perceive misdiagnoses and delays in receiving a diagnosis. Use of existing, patient-designed Facebook patient support groups (FBSGs) to recruit large numbers of patients with rare diseases may be an effective novel research method. OBJECTIVES To collaborate with patients with rare disease through social media and answer questions important to both patients and the medical field, including sources of diagnostic delay, risk of recurrence, and flat presentation of DFSP. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS A multiple-choice survey created by a team of medical practitioners and patients with DFSP was administered to 214 patients with DFSP or family members from international DFSP FBSGs and a nonprofit foundation patient database via Lime Survey from October 30 to November 20, 2015. The survey asked questions designed to determine risk of recurrence and metastasis, surgical outcomes, sources of diagnostic delay, symptoms of recurrence, number of recurrences, scar size, and number of clinicians seen before biopsy. Statistical analysis was performed from January 1, 2016, to April 1, 2019. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The study goal was to collect at least 200 survey responses. RESULTS Of 214 survey respondents (169 females and 45 males; mean [SD] age, 40.7 [12.1] years; range, <1 to 72 years), 199 were patients with DFSP and 15 were family members. Delays occurred between the patient noticing the DFSP lesion and receiving a diagnosis of DFSP (median, 4 years; range, <1 to 42 years). Most patients (112 [52.3%]) believed that they received a misdiagnosis at some point: by dermatologists (35 of 107 [32.7%]), primary care clinicians (80 of 107 [74.8%]), or another type of physician (27 of 107 [25.2%]). The most frequent prebiopsy clinical suspicion included cyst (101 [47.2%]), lipoma (30 [14.0%]), and scar (17 [7.9%]). Many patients first noticed their DFSP as a flat plaque (87 of 194 [44.8%]). Of these lesions, 73.6% (64 of 87) became protuberant eventually. Surgical treatments included Mohs micrographic surgery (56 of 194 [28.9%]), wide local excision (122 of 194 [62.9%]), and conservative excision (16 of 194 [8.2%]). The reported rate of recurrence was 5.4% (3 of 56) for Mohs micrographic surgery, 7.4% (9 of 122) for wide local excision, and 37.5% (6 of 16) for conservative excision. The higher rate of recurrence for conservative excision was significant (P = .001); there was no significant difference in the rate of recurrence between Mohs micrographic surgery and wide local excision (P = .76). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE This study reports what appears to be disease-relevant statistics from the largest survey of patients with DFSP to date. Because of the dissonance between the name of the neoplasm and its clinical presentation, the alternative term dermatofibrosarcoma, often protuberant is proposed. This study suggests that FBSGs are useful tools in medical research, providing rapid access to large numbers of patients with rare diseases and enabling synergistic collaborations between patients and medical researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1910413
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 30 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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