Rhabdomyosarcoma

1 What is Rhabdomyosarcoma?

A rare cancer that forms in the body’s soft tissues like the muscle and connective tissue is called rhabdomyosarcoma in which the cancer cells looks like immature muscle cells. Mostly it affects children and young adults but it can also occur at any age.

The most common forms are in the: head and neck, vagina, bladder, testes, prostate, legs, arms. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are the treatments for this rare cancer.

2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma depend on the location and size of this cancer. Common symptoms include:

  • Bulging of the eye or a drooping eyelid
  • Swelling of the body or persistent lump that may be painful
  • Trouble urinating or having bowel movements
  • Nausea and headache
  • Earache or sinus infection symptoms
  • Blood in the urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding from the nose, vagina, throat and rectum

These signs do not mean you have cancer but consult your doctor just to make sure.

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3 Causes

The cause of rhabdomyosarcoma is unknown because this is a rare tumor.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma is done by performing several tests.

Your doctor will first conduct a physical exam and will talk to you about your medical history. Your doctor will recommend different tests such as:

  • X-ray – to make images of your bones, organs and tissues
  • CT scan – cross-sectional images of the tumor and to check if the tumor has spread to other organs; PET scan – to check where the cancer has spread
  • MRI – to take detailed pictures inside the body
  • Biopsy – your doctor will get a sample of your tissue or cells and will be send to the laboratory for analysis
  • Bone scan – to check whether the cancer cells have spread to the bone
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy – the bone and bone marrow fluid is removed from the bones in your lower back to see if the cancer has spread
  • Spinal tap or lumbar puncture

Your doctor may do one or a combination of these tests.

5 Treatment

The treatment of this rare cancer is based on the site and type of rhabdomyosarcoma.

Either radiation or chemotherapy or both may be used before or after the surgery. Radiation and surgery are used to treat the primary site of the tumor while chemotherapy is used to treat disease at all sites in the body.

Your doctor will discuss what kind of treatment is good for you.

6 Prevention

There are no preventive measures for rhabdomyosarcoma.

Genetic testing may help to identify other family members if they are at risk of this cancer.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

There are no homeopathic or alternative remedies for rhabdomyosarcoma.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with rhabdomyosarcoma.

To reduce your stress, find a support group near your area with people who have the same condition as yours.

Sharing with others that has the same condition can help you feel not alone.

You can also seek support from your family and friends.

9 Risks and Complications

The possible complications of rhabdomyosarcoma include:

  • complications from the chemotherapy:
    • metastasis,
    • location of the tumor in which surgery is not possible.
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