Leiomyosarcoma, General

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.
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Disorder Subdivisions

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General Discussion

Leiomyosarcoma is a malignant (cancerous) tumor that arises from smooth muscle tissue. There are essentially two types of muscles in the body: voluntary and involuntary. Smooth muscles are involuntary muscles; the brain has no conscious control over them. Smooth muscles react involuntarily in response to various stimuli. For example, smooth muscle that lines the walls of the digestive tract causes wave-like contractions (peristalsis) that aid in the digestion and transport of food. Smooth muscles in the salivary glands cause the glands to squirt saliva into the mouth in response to taking a bite of food. Smooth muscle in the skin causes goose bumps to form in response to cold.

Leiomyosarcoma is a form of cancer. The term “cancer” refers to a group of diseases characterized by abnormal, uncontrolled cellular growth that invades surrounding tissues and may spread (metastasize) to distant bodily tissues or organs via the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, or other means. Different forms of cancer, including leiomyosarcomas, may be classified based upon the cell type involved, the specific nature of the malignancy, and the disease’s clinical course.

Since smooth muscle is found all over the body, a leiomyosarcoma can form almost anywhere including the gastrointestinal tract, heart, liver, pancreas, genitourinary tract, the space behind the abdominal cavity (retroperitoneum), uterus, skin, and the walls of blood vessels. The gastrointestinal tract and the uterus are the most common locations for a leiomyosarcoma. Approximately 50 percent of leiomyosarcomas occur in the gastrointestinal tract.

Leiomyosarcoma is classified as a soft tissue sarcoma. Sarcomas are malignant tumors that arise from the connective tissue, which connects, supports and surrounds various structures and organs in the body. Soft tissue includes fat, muscle, never, tendons, tissue surrounding the joints (synovial tissue), and blood and lymph vessels. The exact cause of leiomyosarcoma, including uterine leiomyosarcoma, is unknown.


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Last Updated: 1/28/2008
Copyright 2008National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.