Leiomyosarcoma is a type of soft tissue sarcoma. Sarcomas are cancers that develop in the soft/connective tissue found throughout the body – fat, bone (known as osteosarcoma), blood cells, cartilage, and muscle. Leiomyosarcomas affect smooth involuntary muscle found in many organs and tissue, including:
- Blood vessel walls
Leiomyosarcoma accounts for approximately 10% of all diagnoses for this form of cancer, making it the third most common form (overall, soft tissue cancer is very rare). Like most forms of cancer, tumors are assigned a grade and stage after diagnosis, which helps to determine tumor behavior, and the most effective and appropriate form of treatment for each patient. There are many different types and subgroups of soft tissue sarcomas, several of which tend to develop in the long bones of the legs and arms, most commonly in young children and adolescents. This makes limb preservation a key component of treatment, along with preventing metastasis (spread) to other organs and tissue.
Signs, Symptoms, and Risk Factors for Leiomyosarcoma and Soft Tissue Cancer
A direct cause for leiomyosarcoma is unclear, although genetic and environmental factors may play a role in their development. Exposure to certain industrial chemicals and previous radiation therapy for cancer could increase the risk for some people.
People with sarcomas do not always experience noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Depending on the location and size of the tumors, the most common symptoms are generally:
- Pain and swelling at the location of the tumors
- Difficulty walking/limping if tumors are located in the lower extremities
Because they are so rare and typically don’t produce early symptoms, sarcomas can be difficult to diagnose until they have advanced. Most general oncologists have limited experience with this type of cancer in both children and adults, and working with a sarcoma and limb preservation specialist is very important for developing a comprehensive treatment plan.
To determine if a lump is malignant, there are several testing options:
- Biopsy (a sample of the cells are taken for testing at a lab)
- Imaging scans – ultrasound, CAT or CT scan, MRI, bone scan
As with all forms of sarcoma, leiomyosarcomas can develop anywhere in the body, and the treatment options vary depending on where the tumors are located, the grade and stage, and the patient’s overall health profile, among other factors. If the cancer is determined to be aggressive, treatment by an orthopedic oncologist with proven expertise in a range of soft tissue cancers is essential for getting the right treatment.
In addition to the medical aspects of treatment, an experienced sarcoma specialist like Dr. Daniel C. Allison, an orthopedic oncology surgeon in Los Angeles, can offer patients and their family access to the additional support necessary to cope with all of the factors that are involved, all the way from diagnosis to treatment and managing daily life through a new reality.
Staging and Grading
When malignant tumors are diagnosed, they are typically assigned a grade and stage, depending on the characteristics and behavior of the cells, such as how aggressive the tumors are (likelihood that they will metastasize to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body), where they are located, and whether or not they have already spread beyond the primary site. When cancer originates in one part of the body, such as the lining of the uterus or the stomach, the organ or tissue where it develops is the primary form of cancer. When it spreads, to the bones for example, it is still primary uterine or stomach cancer, however, the tumors that develop in another location are known as metastatic.
For the purposes of diagnosis and treatment, as well as overall prognosis and the likelihood that treatment will be successful, a grade is assigned (from low to high) depending on how fast growing and aggressive the cells appear. The stage, usually assigned from I to V, describes whether the tumors have spread from the primary location, and if so how significantly. A higher stage means the cancer has spread to areas outside of where it originated.
Other Forms of Soft Tissue Cancer
With so many muscles and networks of connective tissue spread out across the body, there are dozens of different types of sarcoma. Some tend to be more prevalent in children, while others are most commonly found in older adults over the age of 40 or 60. In addition to leiomyosarcoma, some of the most commonly diagnosed soft tissue malignancies include:
- Alveolar soft part
- Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma/Pleomorphic
- Neurofibrosarcoma/malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST)
Contact an Orthopedic Oncologist for Leiomyosarcoma Treatment and Limb Preservation in Los Angeles
Soft tissue cancers can be very rare, and require specialized treatment and expertise. To learn more about sarcoma treatment for children and adults, including limb preservation, or for a second opinion, contact board-certified orthopedic oncologist Dr. Daniel C. Allison by calling 310-683-4586 to schedule an appointment.
Next, read about Soft Tissue Sarcomas