What is Leiomyosarcoma?
With such a complicated name, the condition known as Leiomyosarcoma (which is pronounced lay-oh-my-sar-coma) can be difficult to immediately define. In order to simplify it and make it easier to understand, it is best to break it into several words.
Let’s start with the one most people are familiar with sarcoma. A sarcoma is a type of malignant tumor, meaning that it is a form of cancer, that affects the supportive tissues of the body. This is why you can hear about sarcomas of the bone, skin, blood vessels and more. The word’s origins are Greek and it means “fleshy growth”. (Entymologyonline, 2015)
This tells us that Leiomyosarcoma is a form of cancer and that it involves some of the connective tissues of the body. The rest of the word explains just what sort of cancer it is since leio means “smooth” and myo means “muscle”. It is a cancer of the smooth muscle of the body. However, it is not just in any smooth muscle that Leiomyosarcoma, or LMS appears; it strikes what are known as the “involuntary” muscles of the body.
The Muscles Involved
The body has two forms of muscle – voluntary and involuntary. When you flex your arm muscles or intentionally blink your eyes, it is because you have muscles that you can control voluntarily. When you digest food or when your skin makes goose bumps, it is done using muscles the function involuntarily. You have no control over them.
The involuntary muscles are found throughout the human body, including:
- All blood vessels
- And other areas of the body where soft tissue is found
These muscles are not controlled by the brain but are instead triggered through a long list of possible stimuli. As the most basic example, if you eat something your salivary glands flood your mouth with saliva and your digestive tract begins to contract in order to properly digest the food. Your brain is not performing these functions consciously, and it is the stimulus of the food that causes these things to occur.
What Happens with LMS?
Cancer is a very general term used to describe a malfunction in normal cellular growth. This results in tumors that can invade tissue and spread, which is known as metastasizing. This process can happen through the body’s lymphatic system, or even through the blood stream. In the case of LMS, it is believed that the disease will tend to spread or metastasize via the bloodstream rather than the lymphatic channels. However, there are some rare instances when it has spread through the lymphatic system.
Generally, you may develop LMS anywhere there is smooth muscle, and since blood vessels are made of smooth muscle, it generally means you can develop the disease in all parts of the body. However, the most common location for it is the uterus. (WebMD 2015). It is also common to the gastrointestinal tract, but that has recently been reclassified as an entirely separate disease with a promising and life-saving new treatment.
Causes and Treatments
One thing that medical experts have yet to determine about LMS is its precise causes. Currently, there is no clear understanding of precisely why patients develop the condition. Though genetics have been identified as a possible factor, others point towards radiation exposure, chemical exposure, and other causes, but no definitive cause has been named.
It is a relatively rare form of cancer, and it is seen as an aggressive one. There is no standard outcome from treatment since LMS varies widely from case to case and treatments vary as well. This is due to the fact that it appears in different locations and may not spread at all, while other cases of it demonstrate a tendency towards metastasizing. There is a wide range of treatment programs, but no specific protocol due to the ways this disease appears. However, a team approach is the most commonly used.
Entymologyonline.com. sarcoma. 2015. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=sarcoma
WebMD. Leiomyosarcoma. 2015. http://www.webmd.com/cancer/leiomyosarcoma-general