What is rhabdomyosarcoma?
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a fast-growing cancer that starts in cells that would normally develop into muscle cells. It happens most often to young children.
Rhabdomyosarcoma can start in any part of the body but most often starts in the head and neck, genital or urinary tract, or arms and legs
Rhabdomyosarcoma happens most often in children younger than 7
Treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation
What causes rhabdomyosarcoma?
Doctors don't know what causes rhabdomyosarcoma.
What are the symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma?
Symptoms depend on where the rhabdomyosarcoma develops. They include:
A firm lump under the skin, sometimes on the arms and legs
Your child may have problems related to the specific part of the body affected by cancer, such as:
Eyes: Tearing, eye pain, or a bulging eye
Nose and throat: Stuffy nose, mucus and pus coming from the nose, a changing voice
Genital or urinary tract: Belly pain, a lump in the belly, trouble urinating, or blood in the urine
Arms and legs: Firm lumps under the skin
Rhabdomyosarcoma in a child’s arms and legs will often spread, especially to the lungs, bone marrow, and lymph nodes. This doesn’t usually cause symptoms.
How can doctors tell if my child has rhabdomyosarcoma?
Doctors suspect rhabdomyosarcoma from your child's symptoms. To know for sure if your child has rhabdomyosarcoma, doctors will:
Do a CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more or MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more
Remove a sample of a lump, or sometimes an entire lump, to look at under a microscope (called a biopsy)
If your child has cancer, doctors will do tests to see if it has spread. They'll:
Do a CT scan of your child’s chest
Inject a small amount of a radioactive substance to make a picture of the inside of the child's body (radionuclide scan Radionuclide Scanning (Nuclear Scan) A radionuclide is a chemical that is radioactive. Doctors give you a small dose of the radionuclide. The radionuclide gives off radiation that's picked up by a scanner placed over a certain... read more )
Taking a sample of bone marrow (bone marrow biopsy Bone Marrow Examination Red blood cells, most white blood cells, and platelets are produced in the bone marrow, the soft fatty tissue inside bone cavities. Sometimes a sample of bone marrow must be examined to determine... read more ) to look for cancer
It's easier to treat rhabdomyosarcoma if it hasn't spread.
How do doctors treat rhabdomyosarcoma?
To treat rhabdomyosarcoma, doctors will do: