A woman has set out to raise awareness of a rare form of cancer as she is due to have a 17.6-pound tumor removed from her body.
The 39-year-old UK woman, Stephanie Coles, was diagnosed with her condition in December after finding a lump on her abdomen, the BBC reported. A doctor initially thought that the lump may have been an enlarged spleen, but when Coles turned up at the hospital in pain shortly afterwards, they decided to investigate further.
A scan revealed leiomyosarcoma, or LMS, which is a type of soft tissue sarcoma that grows in smooth muscles. These muscles are in the hollow organs of the body, such as the intestines, stomach, bladder and blood vessels.
The condition is described by the US National Cancer Institute as a rare, aggressive cancer that can grow quickly. According to one estimate, LMS accounts for between 7 and 11 percent of all soft tissue sarcomas and soft tissue sarcomas account for just 1 percent of all adult cancers in the US, the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) states.
It isn’t known exactly what causes LMS to form, though some genetic conditions have been associated with it, including hereditary retinoblastoma and Li-Fraumeni syndrome, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Coles was told that cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy wouldn’t work on her tumor and would cause damage to her internal organs. Instead, doctors will have to carry out a complex surgery to remove it.
The tumor weighs 17.6lbs, which is heavier than most bowling balls, according to one sporting website. It measures around 5.5 inches across, and it’s located in the lower lumbar region of her spine, the BBC said.
“I have been told that if my surgery goes to plan, I will be in hospital for a week, then it will be a six-seven month recovery,” she told the broadcaster.
Raising Awareness of the Condition
She hopes to do something with her two adult daughters to raise awareness of her type of cancer and wants to raise £1,000 ($1,359) for the charity Sarcoma UK.
Soft tissue sarcoma is a broad term for 50 different types of cancers that start in soft tissues like muscles, fat, nerves and blood vessels. They can develop anywhere in the body.
Researchers still don’t know why most soft tissue sarcomas develop in people who have no apparent risk factors. Risk factors for the disease include exposure to radiation used to treat other cancers, and family cancer syndromes that are caused by gene mutations.
Cancer research, including investigating new treatments, is a busy area of medicine, receiving several billion dollars of funding in the US in recent years.