Rhabdomyosarcoma: Overview

Rhabdomyosarcoma is an aggressive soft tissue tumor that arises from muscle cells.

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It is the most common soft tissue tumor in children.  The disease can occur throughout childhood and has been reported at birth.  It is the fifth most common form of pediatric cancer accounting for 5-8% of childhood cancer cases.

Rhabdomyosarcoma occurs slightly more frequently in males than females.  Whites are affected three times more often than blacks.  Rhabdomyosarcoma usually affects children between ages 2 and 6 years old.

Treatment and Prevention

Surgery is usually the primary treatment followed by intensive chemotherapy and radiation.  If the tumor is so large that surgery presents a major risk to the patient or would result in serious disfigurement or physical impairment chemotherapy and/or radiation are used to reduce the tumor's size until it can be removed more safely.

Efforts continue to identify more effective drug combinations as well as ways to reduce the amount of radiation required for children.


More than 70% of children with localized rhabdomyosarcoma now enjoy long-term survival.  Survival rates depend significantly on initial tumor size location and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

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Signs, symptoms & indicators of Rhabdomyosarcoma:

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular

Bulging eyes

A rhabdomyosarcoma near the eye(s) may cause bulging.

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