In this Baylor Scott & White Greater Dallas Orthopaedics blog, we discuss a type of sarcoma that can impact individuals at all ages, but predominantly impacts pediatric patients,

Rhabdomyosarcoma, often abbreviated to RMS, is a rare form of cancer typically found in one of three locations - around the head or neck, the urinary tract, or the arms and legs. Like virtually all cancers that can occur in different distinct areas of the body, treatment strategies are highly dependent on that locality.

Like all GDO blogs, this is not meant to be a replacement for a formal medical consultation. The information contained here is meant for personal education only.

What is Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a rare type of cancer that forms in soft tissue, typically found in the skeletal muscle tissue or hollow organs such as the bladder or uterus.

These cancer cells before birth are called Rhabdomyoblasts and will begin to form skeletal muscles. Once they develop, it turns into Rhabdomyosarcoma. Because this cancer can form in early stages of muscle development, it is more commonly diagnosed in children than adults.

Although we may think the skeletal muscles are mainly in our legs and arms, RMS can begin developing nearly anywhere in the body. Common sites of RMS are found in the head and neck, urinary and reproductive organs, arms and legs, and abdomen. 

Who is most affected by Rhabdomyosarcoma?

RMS mostly affects children and teens, with more than half of them in children younger than 10 years of age. It can also occur in adults who are more likely to have a faster-growing type of RMS and have them in parts of the body more difficult to treat. 

RMS is more commonly found in boys than in girls. There is not a particular race or ethnic group that has a high rate of RMS. 

What are the causes of Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Unfortunately, it is not clear what causes Rhabdomyosarcoma. In the beginning, it starts when a cell develops a change in its DNA. The change of DNA causes an overproduction of cells which results in tumors of abnormal cells that destroys body tissue. The abnormal cells can break away and spread throughout the body. 

What are the Symptoms and When Does it Occur?

Signs and symptoms of Rhabdomyosarcoma vary depending on what part of the body is affected. Most commonly these symptoms include:

Head or Neck

Urinary or Reproductive System 

Arms or Legs

How is Rhabdomyosarcoma Diagnosed?

Rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosis starts with a physical exam to determine what types of testing needs to be conducted. Based on those results, other tests and procedures may be recommended.

How is Rhabdomyosarcoma treated?

Rhabdomyosarcoma treatment includes a variety of methods that depend on the location of the cancer, the size of the tumor, how aggressive the cells are, and whether it’s been confined in a small area or has spread. Based on those findings, the following treatments are ususally recommended:

While Rhabdomyosarcoma may be a concerning diagnosis, treatment for these tumors has advanced rapidly over the past decade. Your team at Baylor Scott & White Greater Dallas Orthopaedics is here to provide insight, support, and innovative treatment strategies to equip you or your loved one to return to function promptly. Reach out to BSWGDO today to learn more.