Leiomyosarcoma is a rare type of soft tissue cancer that occurs in the smooth lining of the organs anywhere in the body. Nearly 15,000 people in the United States get diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma. Out of these, leiomyosarcoma accounts for only 7-10% of them. It is most common in the abdomen, followed by the skin and the blood vessels. Leiomyosarcoma of the uterus, known as uterine leiomyosarcoma, affects six out of every one million women in the United States every year.
Doctors do not know what exactly causes leiomyosarcoma. Some experts believe genetic mutation to be one of the causes. This genetic mutation causes the cells to divide and grow uncontrollably. These abnormal cells can get migrated to nearby organs and can lead to a form known as metastatic cancer.
Radiation is also known to risk your risk for leiomyosarcoma. Some studies suggest soft tissue sarcomas can be associated with exposure to herbicides and weed killers. However, there is no robust evidence to prove that herbicides can cause leiomyosarcoma.
Heredity can also be the cause of leiomyosarcoma but this cause is rare. You can inherit the risk of soft tissue sarcoma from your parents. Genetic syndromes that increase your risk include:
What are the signs and symptoms of leiomyosarcoma?
Leiomyosarcoma does not cause symptoms in its early stages. You may find a lump under your skin if it is leiomyosarcoma of the skin and has grown to a considerable size. Once cancer has progressed to later stages, you may notice general symptoms of cancer, such as nausea, anorexia, fatigue, and weight loss.
Other symptoms vary as per the location of the leiomyosarcoma tumor. For example, the leiomyosarcoma of the intestine can cause abdominal and bleeding through the anus; a leiomyosarcoma of the uterus may cause irregular menses and excessive bleeding during menses.
How is leiomyosarcoma diagnosed?
Doctors take your complete medical history and evaluate your signs and symptoms. They order various blood tests and imaging tests, such as ultrasonography, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) scan. The imaging tests help the doctor look for any structural abnormality or growth in your body. If all other causes of your signs and symptoms have been ruled out, a small piece of the suspected organ will be taken via a surgical procedure known as a biopsy. This biopsied piece will be sent to the laboratory to check for any cancerous changes.
What is the best treatment for leiomyosarcoma?
Leiomyosarcoma is an aggressive type of cancer. It has the potential to double in as early as 4 weeks. The treatment needs to be initiated as soon as possible after its diagnosis.
The best treatment for leiomyosarcoma depends on how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. The decision is based on the teamwork of onco-surgeons and oncologists. Onco-surgeons are doctors who are specialized in performing surgeries on cancerous organs. Oncologists are specialized doctors who are experts in providing diagnosis and medical treatment of cancer. As for other cancers, the initial treatment of leiomyosarcoma is often surgery that involves excision of the tumor from the organ and if any, from the surrounding structures.
After the surgery, the doctors usually perform either radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy involves using high-energy beams to destroy the local tissues but may end up harming the surrounding healthy tissues or organs as well. Doctors take utmost precautions to target only the cancerous tissues while saving the healthy ones. If the leiomyosarcoma has spread extensively in the body, medications that aim at working on the whole body to kill the cancerous cells are prescribed. This type of treatment is known as chemotherapy, and it can be given in the form of injections or pills.
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National Cancer Institute. Leiomyosarcoma. National Institutes of Health. https://www.cancer.gov/pediatric-adult-rare-tumor/rare-tumors/rare-soft-tissue-tumors/leiomyosarcoma
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