What is Leiomyosarcoma?
is one of the forms of a very rare and aggressive cancer called
sarcoma is a cancer of the connective or supportive tissues of the body. These tissues include bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, and blood vessels. The word sarcoma comes from the Greek word meaning 'fleshy growth'.
Sarcomas can invade surrounding tissue and can metastasize (spread) to other organs of the body, forming secondary tumors. The cells of secondary tumors are similar to those of the primary (original) cancer. Secondary tumors are referred to as "metastatic (mets)" These mets are part of the original cancer and are not a new disease.
Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) is a type of sarcoma cancer. Leiomyosarcomas are malignant tumors which develop from smooth muscle tissue. Smooth muscle cells make up the involuntary muscles in our body. Involuntary muscles are those which we do not move consciously with our brain. Involuntary muscles are found in most parts of the body: in uterus, lungs, liver, stomach and intestines, walls of all blood vessels, and skin.
The exact causes of Leiomyosarcoma are not known, but studies have indicated that there are genetic and environmental risk factors associated with it. Certain inherited conditions that run in families could possibly increase the risk of developing Leiomyosarcoma. High-dose radiation exposure, such as radiotherapy used to treat other types of cancer, has also been linked to Leiomyosarcoma and it is possible that exposure to certain chemical herbicides might increase the risk of developing this disease, but a direct association has not been proven.
Most patients with Leiomyosarcoma choose to be cared for by a multidisciplinary team of health professionals. It is important to get help with this rare form of cancer from a sarcoma center which sees a large number of Leiomyosarcoma patients. Many local oncologists rarely see more than one or two cases of Leiomyosarcoma in their entire career. Most sarcoma centers will work with your local oncologist in trying to help make the best choices for your care. See Sarcoma Centers.
After diagnosis, your tumor will be staged to determine how far the cancer has advanced. This is important because treatment varies depending on the stage. Stage is determined by the size of the tumor, whether the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes, whether the tumor has spread elsewhere in the body, and what the cells look like under the microscope.
A pathologist will examine your tissue samples under the microscope, using special chemical stains, then he can classify your tumor as high grade or low grade. High-grade tumors have the more rapidly growing cells and so are considered more serious.
Tumors are staged using numbers I through IV. The higher the number, the more the tumor has advanced. Stage IV Leiomyosarcoma means it has involved either lymph nodes or has spread to distant parts of the body.
The outlook for patients with Leiomyosarcoma varies. It depends on the location and size of the tumor and its type and extent of spread. Some patients with low grade tumors or with tumors that have not spread beyond Stage I have had excellent prognoses. There are numerous long term survivors from this group. In general, high-grade tumors that have spread widely throughout the body have less favorable survival rates.
Several clinical studies are underway and offering more options to Leiomyosarcoma patients. You can learn more about some of these clinical trials and treatment possibilities under the Patients Resources portion of this website. These pages are not all inclusive, but we work to keep them frequently updated. See Clinical Trials. See Treatments Possibilities.
Since the causes of Leiomyosarcoma are not known, there are no recommendations about how to prevent its development.
Leiomyosarcoma, like other cancer diagnoses, may produce a range of emotional responses. Education, counseling, and participation in support group programs may help to reduce feelings of fear, anxiety and hopelessness. See Listserves on this website for support. On this website we also have under Patient Resources a category called Our Stories which might help when the fears of diagnosis surround you.
In addition to the information we have available on this website, you will find a reference on the bottom of our Treatments page to the website of Dr. Doreen Kossove. DoctorDee as she is called by many, is a physician who also has Leiomyosarcoma, and she has devoted much research and time to creating a website to help inform Leiomyosarcoma Patients. If you are unable to find information you need on our site, you might wish to look further to DoctorDee's site.