Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones.While the cancer can occur in many areas in the body, the most common sites of RMS include the head and neck, urinary and reproductive organs, arms, legs and trunk. Since rhabdomysarcoma is a cancer of embryonal cells, it is much more common in children, though it can also occur at times in adults.

There are main two types of RMS: Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma and Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.

Ø  Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma is a common cancer that usually develops in children up to the age of 5 in certain areas such as the head and neck, bladder, vagina, in or around the prostate and testicles.

Ø   Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer that typically affects all age groups and most often develops in large muscles of the trunk, arms and legs.

Treatment options for rhabdomyosarcoma typically involve surgery, as well as radiation or chemotherapy.



Symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma typically depend on the locations of the tumor, its size, and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. The most common symptom includes a lump that may or may not be painful.

  • Tumors in the nose: bleeding, swallowing difficulties, congestion
  • Tumors around the eyes: bulging of the eye, impaired vision, inflammation or pain around the eye
  • Tumors in the ears: earache, hearing loss, inflammation
  • Tumors in the abdomen: abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation
  • Tumors in the bladder or vagina: blood in the urine, vaginal bleeding

If RMS progresses, it can cause more severe symptoms such as lumps under the skin, pain in the bones, chronic cough, weakness, or weight loss.



The exact cause of rhabdomyosarcoma remains unknown. Researchers believe that gene changes can lead to RMS, though it is not clear what causes the changes. Some gene changes can be inherited, while others might just be of a random instance that occurs within the cells (the point where normal cells become cancer cells).

There is no lifestyle change or environmental cause that can change the occurrence of RMS, so prevention of cancer is unlikely.

Risk factors

A few factors that can increase the risk of developing rhabdomyosarcoma include the following:

  • Being a child under the age of 10
  • Being male
  • Certain inherited conditions (Neurofibromatosis type 1, Costello syndrome, Noonan syndrome)
  • Exposure to X-rays before birth



A few complications that can arise from rhabdomyosarcoma include the following:

  • Complications from chemotherapy
  • Inability to undergo surgery due to the location of the tumor
  • Spreading of the cancer to other areas of the body



Treatment options for rhabdomyosarcoma typically depend on the location of the tumor, its size, as well as the  type of rhabdomyosarcoma an individual is suffering from. It is important that patients who have been diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma to understand the possible side effects of treating the cancer and to what extent the treatment can be proven successful. Treatment options may include:

·         Surgery: A surgical procedure that involves removal of the tumor.

·         Radiation therapy: A type of therapy that involves the use of powerful x-ray beams to kill cancer cells.

·         Chemotherapy: A type of therapy that involves the use of chemical substances (anti-cancerous drugs) to destroy cancer cells and prevent further spreading of the cancer.