Cancer ribbons are simple loops of ribbon that people wear like badges to show their support for people who have cancer or to spread awareness about the disease. There are many different types of cancer ribbons, each with its own symbolic color. Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) awareness is represented by the purple color.
LMS is a rare type of malignant (cancerous) tumor that arises from the smooth muscle cells of the body. Smooth muscle cells are the involuntary muscle cells lining the blood vessels and organs of the abdomen. These are not controlled voluntarily or at will. LMS is classified as a soft tissue tumor and can arise in any part of the body, the most common site being the uterus. It has a fleshy appearance. The cut surface of LMS is soft and yellowish tanned in color.
LMS is a resistant type of cancer that is generally not very responsive to chemotherapy or radiation. This makes it potentially deadly. If LMS is identified early and removed by surgery while still small and in the same position, the treatment outlook is good. If LMS is large or has spread to other parts of the body, treatment is more difficult, and the prognosis is not very good. Most forms of LMS are aggressive that may spread to other areas of the body, potentially causing life-threatening complications.
LMS has a high risk of recurrence, and patients must examine themselves routinely after the treatment. In about 50% of the patients, LMS recurs within 8-16 months of the initial diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes, LMS remains dormant for long periods and recurs after a few years.
Where does leiomyosarcoma occur?
- Uterine LMS forms in the smooth muscle layer of the uterus.
- Gastrointestinal LMS might originate from the smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal tract or from a blood vessel.
- Cutaneous LMS arises from the piloerector muscles in the skin.
- Other primary sites: In the abdomen, intestines, truncal and abdominal organs, blood vessels, etc., LMS arises from the smooth muscle layer of the blood vessels known as tunica media.
What causes leiomyosarcoma?
The exact cause of leiomyosarcoma (LMS) is unknown. Malignant tumors may develop due to abnormal changes in the oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes. Genetic changes may occur either spontaneously or may be inherited. Certain inherited conditions that may increase the risk of LMS include:
What are the signs and symptoms of leiomyosarcoma?
Symptoms may vary from patient to patient and depend upon the location, size, and progression of the tumor. A patient with leiomyosarcoma (LMS) in the early stages may not have any obvious symptoms (asymptomatic). When the tumor gets larger, symptoms appear.
Signs and symptoms of LMS include:
- Fatigue, fever, and weight loss
- Malaise (general feeling of ill health)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain may occur but is uncommon
- Lump under the skin
- Change in the bladder or bowel habits
- Melena (black, tarry, foul-smelling stools)
- Hematemesis (vomiting of blood)
- Abdominal discomfort
- Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding (in uterine LMS)
How is leiomyosarcoma diagnosed?
Doctors may diagnose leiomyosarcoma (LMS) based on the following tests:
- Patient history
- Clinical evaluation
- Blood tests
- Fine-needle aspiration (FNA): The doctor inserts a thin, hollow needle into the nodule or mass to withdraw small samples of tissue and then study them under a microscope.
- Biopsy: The doctor performs an incisional soft tissue biopsy and histopathology.
- Imaging techniques: The doctor may use imaging scans such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, angiography, and positron emission tomography (PET) to evaluate the size, location, extent of the tumor, and metastasis (distant spread to other areas of the body).
How is leiomyosarcoma treated?
Treatment may vary for each patient and depends on the size, location, extent of tumor, metastasis to distant sites, and patient’s age and general health. Treatment may include:
- Surgery: The best option for LMS treatment is the surgical removal of the entire tumor and any affected tissues. If some cancer cells remain, there are chances of cancer arising in the site or in the different part of the body.
- Radiation therapy: It may be used before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor. Radiation may also be used after the surgical removal of the tumor to prevent it from growing back.
- Chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs): When the leiomyosarcoma (LMS) tumor is large or if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, then chemotherapy is used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy to treat patients.
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