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.
Most rhabdomyoscarcomas 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.
Tests and Diagnosis
Several genetic syndromes increase a child’s risk for rhabdomyosarcoma, including:
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Neurofibromatosis type 1
- Costello syndrome
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 and trouble with urination or bowel movements. Ultrasonography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging can display the tumors, and a biopsy confirms diagnosis.
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.
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.
Rhabdomyosarcoma treatment usually requires surgery. 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. Our team of multidisciplinary specialists leverages their experience treating rare tumors and experimental therapeutics to develop treatment plans for your referred patient’s individual cancer.
Once a young patient with rhabdomyosarcoma returns to family and community, we work with you and the patient’s family to assist with necessary follow-up care and monitoring the cancer for recurrence.