Leiomyosarcoma (Gr. “smooth muscle connective tissue tumor”), aka LMS, is a malignant neoplasm of smooth muscle. (When a such a neoplasm is benign, it is a leiomyoma.)
Leiomyosarcoma is a relatively rare form of cancer, comprising between 5–10% of soft tissue sarcomas, which are in themselves relatively rare. Leiomyosarcomas can be very unpredictable. They can remain dormant for long periods of time and recur after years. It is a resistant cancer, meaning generally not very responsive to chemotherapy or radiation. The best outcomes occur when it can be removed surgically with wide margins early, while small and still in situ.
Smooth muscle cells make up the involuntary muscles, which are found in most parts of the body, including the uterus, stomach and intestines, the walls of all blood vessels, and the skin. It is therefore possible for leiomyosarcomas to appear at any site in the body (including the breasts); they are most commonly found in the uterus, stomach, small intestine and retroperitoneum.
Uterine leiomyosarcomas come from the smooth muscle in the muscle layer of the uterus. Cutaneous leiomyosarcomas derive from the pilo-erector muscles in the skin. Gastrointestinal leiomyosarcomas might come from smooth muscle in the GI tract or, alternatively, also from a blood vessel. At most other primary sites—retroperitoneal extremity (in the abdomen, behind the intestines), truncal, abdominal organs, etc—leiomyosarcomas appear to grow from the muscle layer of a blood vessel (the tunica media). Thus a leiomyosarcoma can have a primary site of origin anywhere in the body where there is a blood vessel.
Surgery, with as wide a margin of removal as possible, has generally been the most effective and preferred way to attack LMS. If surgical margins are narrow or not clear of tumor, however, or in some situations where tumor cells were left behind, chemotherapy or radiation has been shown to give a clear survival benefit. While LMS tends to be resistant to radiation and chemotherapy, each case is different and results can vary widely. Regardless, anyone diagnosed with LMS should see a sarcoma oncologist (not just a general oncologist) as soon as possible.
Complementary methods (such as over-the-counter supplements) should always be discussed with one’s doctor(s); some supplements can actually hinder treatments like chemotherapy.