Leiomyosarcoma

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at February 5, 2016
StartDiseasesLeiomyosarcoma

Cancer is a disease which involves abnormal cell growth, known as a malignant tumor. It has the potential to spread to other parts of the body. Leomyosarcoma or LMS is an extremely rare, aggressive form of cancer.

Contents

Definition & Facts

Leomyosarcoma is a type of sarcoma cancer. A sarcoma is a cancer, or malignant tumor, of the connective tissue or supportive tissues of the body. These tissues may include bones, cartilage, fat, and muscles. Sarcomas are known to metastasize to other parts of the body.

LMS is specifically a cancer of the smooth muscles of the body. Smooth muscles are the involuntary muscles of the body, those which are not consciously controlled by the brain. Among other places, involuntary muscles can be found in the lungs, the liver, the stomach, the intestines, and the blood vessels. LMS is often a very unpredictable cancer. It can remain dormant for years but then cruelly recur.

Symptoms & Complaints

The symptoms of LMS are hard to pinpoint. The reason for this is because LMS can occur almost anywhere in the body. Additionally, all possible symptoms could be caused by something else. Since LMS appears to be most commonly found in the pelvic region of the body, however, many of the symptoms are accordingly found in this area.

For example, if there is a large enough tumor on the uterus, stomach, or intestine, a doctor may be able to feel it when pressing in this region during normal examination. On the other hand, if the tumor is in a blood vessel, this may limit or cut off blood to the region supplied by that blood vessel, causing tingling or pain in the area not receiving sufficient blood.

Other, more general symptoms may include a lump or mass that can be felt when prodded but causes no pain, or a painful swelling of any area of the body. Digestive symptoms may include abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss, or nausea and vomiting. Most any of these symptoms could be caused by another disease or ailment so none of the symptoms are definitive diagnoses. Only a doctor can tell for sure if a lump is caused by cancer and specifically by LMS.

Causes

The causes of LMS are not fully known. There are several theories of genetic factors and environmental factors. First, it is thought that there may be a hereditary disposition to contracting this disease. There are some factors that are known to run in families that appear to be linked to LMS. Additionally, there are some environmental factors that may play a part in the development of this disease.

One such risk is to those who are exposed to high dose radiation. This type of radiation, often used to treat other types of cancers. seems to put a person at a higher risk for developing LMS. Additionally, there is some evidence that exposure to some chemical herbicides may have some links to the disease. These have not been proven at this point, however.

Diagnosis & Tests

There are several steps taken in the diagnosis of LMS. The first step in the diagnosis of LMS is for the doctor to take a ask questions and record the complete medical history of the patient. This should then be followed by a physical examination of the entire body, concentrating on the sections where symptoms appear to be most prevalent. For example, a patent coming to the doctor’s office complaining of stomach issues such as pain, feeling overfull, or a mass, would have a more concentrated exam of the pelvic region.

Next, the doctor will likely order imaging studies to confirm the size, shape, and exact location of the tumor. These studies may include CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays. Once the doctor has the imaging results, he or she will order a biopsy to make a definitive diagnosis, if needed. The type of biopsy that is performed will depend on the location and size of the tumor.

Once the tissues are removed from the body during the biopsy, they will be examined by a pathologist to determine an exact diagnosis. A tissue study is the only way to tell for sure if the patient has LMS.

Treatment & Therapy

The first step of treating LMS is to find out what stage of the cancer a person has. The stage is assigned a number from one to four, with four being the most advanced stage. The stage determination is done by looking at the tumor under the microscope and determining how fast the cells are growing. The stage of the cancer is also decided by the actual size of the tumor and whether it has spread to surrounding lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Knowing the stage of the cancer helps the doctors to best treat the patient.

Other factors taken into account when working on a treatment plan are the patient’s age, general health, and medical history. Most often, the next step is to surgically remove the tumor. The way that this is done depends on the location of the tumor. If the tumor is on a limb, the entire limb may be amputated. If it is on an organ in the abdomen, the tumor will be removed in the best way possible. Tumors are then often treated with chemotherapy or radiation to be sure than none of the malignant cells remain in the body.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

Since the exact cause of LMS is not know, there are no specific recommendations to prevent its occurrence for the general public. In families where there is a genetic tendency to have this disease, however, early and often screening and monitoring of health may help to catch the disease in the early stages if it should occur. Treatment during the early stages is associated with a much higher rate of survival.

Prognosis for patients with advanced stages of this type of cancer is not favorable. Otherwise, living a generally healthy lifestyle is the only recommendation, and that recommendation applies to everyone anyway.