Leiomyosarcoma, or LMS is a rare and somewhat aggressive form of cancer that appears only in the soft tissue of the body. Additionally, it only appears in the involuntary muscles, meaning that it can appear at any location in the body due to its ability to form in blood vessels. It is also a bit of a covert disease. It does not create any noticeable symptoms in its earliest stages and is usually diagnosed only after a patient develops very noticeable complaints or symptoms.
The Symptoms of Leiomyosarcoma
- Swollen areas or lumps on the body
- Bloating and abdominal swelling
- Pain or unusual swelling anywhere in the body
- A change in menstruation (or vaginal bleeding after menopause)
- Trouble breathing
It is important to remember that any sarcoma, including the cancerous tumors of LMS, may start as small and entirely painless lumps beneath the skin. Though they often show on the legs and arms, they can be anywhere, including the abdomen. As they increase in size, they press on everything in the surrounding areas, including the nerves, organs, blood vessels and muscles. Because of that, the symptoms may include a long list of other problems related to the tumor but not to LMS itself.
Because LMS is a form of cancer that usually travels via the blood stream rather than through the lymphatics, it may not cause any swelling to the lymph tissues. This is a bit different than other forms of cancer that tend to present specifically with swollen lymph nodes or glands.
Cell Type and Site
Unfortunately, the nature of LMS makes it hard to determine its actual source. For example, in order to create treatments it is essential to know which cells in an organ or soft tissue were at the underlying cause of the development of the disease. However, with LMS it is entirely possible for it to metastasize (spread) within a single organ without leaving any distinctive tags or markers as to its original form. For example, some physicians posit that uterine LMS may develop from the lining of uterine blood vessels rather than from the muscles of the uterine wall – however, this is proving difficult to determine.
The symptoms of uterine LMS, however, would be similar in that bleeding and cramping, a sense of heaviness in the pelvis, and the presence of fibroid (non-cancerous) tumors.
What to Do Next?
If you have a swelling on the body that has not been there before, it is always advisable to visit a physician immediately – even if it is a painless swelling. You should also make a point of knowing if you are someone who has been exposed to the various risk factors for the development of LMS.
Though there are no officially known causes for the development of the disease, there are many experts who agree that certain factors can and do put people at risk for it. These include:
- Being over the age of 50
- Having been treated for cancer in the past using radiotherapy
- Experiencing chronic edema in the limbs after a surgical treatment (radical mastectomy is a common issue relating to edema in the arms)
- Autoimmune disorders
- Thyroid disorders
- Estrogen related disorders
- Exposure to a long list of chemicals and environmental carcinogens
- Inflammation and chronic repair in the body
- Other disease
As you can see, that represents a tremendous amount of risk that could apply to almost anyone. However, if you any of those risk factors apply to you, and you are also experiencing the other physical symptoms listed above, you should head to your physician immediately. Although most LMS symptoms can be caused by a long list of other, less serious conditions, it is best to never wait and see if any further issues develop.
Dana-Farber.org. Leiomyosarcoma Cancer Causes and Information. 2015. http://www.dana-farber.org/Adult-Care/Treatment-and-Support/Leiomyosarcoma.aspx#Treatment