What is Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare childhood cancer of the soft tissue that typically begins in the muscle. Most children diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma are newborn to 14 years old, but a percentage of cases are diagnosed in adolescents and young adults between 15 and 19 years old.

What are the signs and symptoms of Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Most rhabdomyosarcomas are found in children’s heads or necks, genitourinary tracts and extremities. They also have been diagnosed in the trunk, chest wall, abdominal area and perineal/anal area. Tumors found in the arm or leg are usually diagnosed in adolescents or young adults. The cancer can metastasize to other areas of the body, most commonly to lymph nodes and lungs, if the cancerous cells enter the bloodstream. Rhabdomyosarcoma is curable in most children and adolescents. Patient specific prognosis depends on the patient’s age at diagnosis and the tumor’s origin, size, histopathology, stage and response to treatment.

How is Rhabdomyosarcoma treated?

When the tumor is diagnosed, treatment includes chemotherapy to systemically destroy the cancer cells. Rhabdomyosarcoma treatment may require surgery to completely remove the tumor. However, when the tumor is located near critical structures such as the eye, treatment may depend on chemotherapy and radiation therapy alone. Your child’s physician will consider the size and location of the cancer, your child’s age and overall health, and whether the cancer has spread in planning the best treatment for your child. A number of families travel to our facility because of our leading therapies backed by the latest research.

Our team of multidisciplinary specialists leverages their experience treating rare tumors and experimental therapeutics to develop treatment plans for your child’s individual cancer. The specialists at Children’s Health have experience treating rhabdomyosarcoma. We are also leading research aimed at understanding the genetic alterations that cause rhabdomyosarcoma and how rhabdomyosarcoma behaves.

Many children with rhabdomyosarcoma are treated with therapy as part of ongoing clinical trials. Physicians at Children’s Health lead the development of such advanced therapy through trials initiated at UT Southwestern and Children’s Health, those of the Children’s Oncology Group and other groups. This allows patients to receive cutting-edge therapies available at few hospitals in the U.S.

Children’s Health is staffed by expert and experienced oncologists, surgeons and subspecialists. The Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is a world-class and nationally recognized leader in pediatric cancer. If your child has been diagnosed with a rhabdomyosarcoma or you want an expert second opinion, turn to pediatric tumor specialists who can manage the complex soft tissue cancer.