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.
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.