Pediatric Rhabdomyosarcoma

Pediatric Rhabdomyosarcoma

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare childhood cancer of the soft tissue. It typically begins in muscle attached to bone. 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 is Pediatric 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 hand and foot usually are diagnosed in adolescents or young adults and are more likely to be metastatic.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is curable in most children and adolescents and prognosis depends on the patient’s age at diagnosis, the tumor’s origin, size, histopathology and stage. If you suspect that a patient has a rhabdomyosarcoma, you will want to turn to pediatric tumor specialists who can manage the complex soft tissue cancer.


Several genetic syndromes increase a child’s risk for rhabdomyosarcoma, including:

A high birth weight in newborns may increase risk for the tumors. Symptoms often are localized to the tumor, but may include:

  • Painful masses or swelling
  • Headache
  • Trouble with urination or bowel movements

How is Pediatric Rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosed?

Imaging can display the tumors.

A biopsy will confirm the diagnosis.

How is Pediatric Rhabdomyosarcoma treated?

Treatment of childhood sarcoma is complex. First, planning and prognosis depend on a number of factors specific to the tumor’s characteristics. Management of previously untreated rhabdomyosarcoma is based on the location of the tumor.


Rhabdomyosarcoma treatment usually requires surgery.

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy

When the tumor is located near critical structures such as the eye, treatment may begin with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, followed by surgery for recurrent rhabdomyosarcoma.

At Children’s, our specialists have experience treating rhabdomyosarcoma. We’re also leading the way in research aimed at understanding the genetic alterations that cause the disease and understanding how the cancer behaves.


Pediatric Rhabdomyosarcoma Doctors and Providers