The peritoneum is the serous membrane which lines the cavity of the abdomen and covers the abdominal organs. The retroperitoneal space – also called the retroperitoneum – is the anatomical space in the abdominal cavity behind the peritoneum.
Retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma is a cancerous, smooth muscle tumor in the retroperitoneal space. Retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma is one of the most aggressive forms of this cancer, with larger tumors that are often not amenable to complete surgical resection. This is because the cancer occurs in an inaccessible space and the abdominal cavity is large.
In other words – retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma is often too large to be removed from your body completely via surgery, leaving chemotherapy and radiation as second-line defenses.
What Are the Signs I Might Have Retroperitoneal Leiomyosarcoma?
Retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma presents its own specific symptoms. These are:
- Vague abdominal discomfort
- An abdominal mass
- Weight loss
An abdominal mass can look like a hernia – although abdominal masses are typically more rounded than hernias, which tend to be pointy. Weight loss would be significant – it is not uncommon for patients with retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma to lose 10-11 pounds before the cancer is discovered.
The median age of retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma patients is 50 years.
How Is Retroperitoneal Leiomyosarcoma Discovered?
Prior to the discovery of retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma, patients often experience the following specific maladies:
- Early satiety (feeling full before you have finished eating, or hardly eaten at all)
- Gastrointestinal obstruction or bleeding,
- Lower extremity swelling or pain
A computed topography scan – commonly referred to as a CT scan – is the best way to evaluate the presence and magnitude of retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma. A CT scan will reveal the location of the tumor as well as its relation to other tumors. Once retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma is discovered, it is advisable to look for other tumors, particularly:
- Adrenal tumors
- Renal tumors
- Pancreatic tumors
- Advanced gastrointestinal carcinomas
- Germ cell tumors
- Soft tissue sarcomas
How Serious is Retroperitoneal Leiomyosarcoma?
As your doctor has probably informed you, retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma is a very serious cancer with a five year survival rate of only 40 to 60 percent. Retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma is among the rarest of the various types of leiomyosarcoma, which collectively account for less than one percent of all cancer diagnoses.
The overall survival rate for leiomyosarcomas in general is not very good. Five separate studies showed between 77 and 93 leiomyosarcoma patients eventually dying from the cancer.
This Does Not Mean There Are Not Options
You should discuss your treatment options with your doctor(s). Among the courses of treatment you might consider are chemotherapy, radiation and surgery – it is possible to do a combination of the three or all three. Sometimes chemotherapy is used to supplement surgery, either before or after the operation is performed.
As mentioned, retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma presents problems that often make surgery difficult or impossible. In this case, it is still possible to undergo treatments to slow or stop the growth of the cancer and alleviate some of its symptoms.
Are You the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
Did your doctor fail to identify retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma even when all of the symptoms were present? Do you believe that your doctor suggested an inadequate course of treatment for your retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma, depriving you of comfort and possibly shortening your lifespan? Do you believe that you had or are having unadvertised or severe side effects from your retroperitoneal leiomyosarcoma chemotherapy medication?
If so, contact our office for a free consultation. You might have a cause of action for medical malpractice or against the manufacturer of your chemotherapy medication.