Condition 101 About Rhabdomyosarcoma

What is the definition of Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous (malignant) tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones. This cancer mostly affects children.

What are the alternative names for Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Soft tissue cancer - rhabdomyosarcoma; Soft tissue sarcoma; Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma; Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma; Sarcoma botryoides

What are the causes for Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma can occur in many places in the body. The most common sites are the head or neck, the urinary or reproductive system, and the arms or legs.

The cause of rhabdomyosarcoma is unknown. It is a rare tumor with only several hundred new cases per year in the United States.

Some children with certain birth defects are at an increased risk. Some families have a gene mutation that increases this risk. Most children with rhabdomyosarcoma do not have any known risk factors.

What are the symptoms for Rhabdomyosarcoma?

The most common symptom is a mass that may or may not be painful.

Other symptoms vary depending on location of the tumor.

  • Tumors in the nose or throat may cause bleeding, congestion, swallowing problems, or nervous system problems if they extend into the brain.
  • Tumors around the eyes may cause bulging of the eye, problems with vision, swelling around the eye, or pain.
  • Tumors in the ears, may cause pain, hearing loss, or swelling.
  • Bladder and vaginal tumors may cause trouble starting to urinate or having a bowel movement, or poor control of urine.
  • Muscle tumors may lead to a painful lump, and can be mistaken for an injury.

What are the current treatments for Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Treatment depends on the site and type of rhabdomyosarcoma.

Either radiation or chemotherapy, or both, will be used before or after surgery. In general, surgery and radiation therapy are used to treat the primary site of the tumor. Chemotherapy is used to treat disease at all sites in the body.

Chemotherapy is an essential part of treatment to prevent spread and recurrence of the cancer. Many different chemotherapy drugs are active against rhabdomyosarcoma. Your provider will discuss these with you.

What are the support groups for Rhabdomyosarcoma?

The stress of illness can be eased by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Rhabdomyosarcoma?

With intensive treatment, most children with rhabdomyosarcoma are able to survive long-term. Cure depends on the specific type of tumor, its location, and how much it has spread.

What are the possible complications for Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Complications of this cancer or its treatment include:

  • Complications from chemotherapy
  • Location in which surgery is not possible
  • Spread of the cancer (metastasis)

When should I contact a medical professional for Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Call your provider if your child has symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma.


Dome JS, Rodriguez-Galindo C, Spunt SL, Santana VM. Pediatric solid tumors. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 92.

Goldblum JR, Folpe AL, Weiss SW. Rhabdomyosarcoma. In: Goldblum JR, Folpe AL, Weiss SW, eds. Enzinger and Weiss's Soft Tissue Tumors. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 19.

National Cancer Institute website. Childhood rhabdomyosarcoma treatment (PDQ) health professional version. Updated May 7, 2020. Accessed July 23, 2020.

Top Global Doctors For Rhabdomyosarcoma

Latest Advances On Rhabdomyosarcoma

  • Condition: Brain Metastasis from Soft Tissue Sarcomas
  • Journal: Anticancer research
  • Treatment Used: Combined Surgery and Radiotherapy
  • Number of Patients: 509
  • Published —
This study tested the safety and efficacy of using a combined surgery and radiotherapy regimen to treat patients with brain metastases that they acquired from their soft tissue sarcoma.

Clinical Trials For Rhabdomyosarcoma

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Phase: Phase 1/Phase 2
  • Intervention Type: Biological
  • Participants: 228
  • Start Date: April 15, 2021
Phase 1/2 Study of Bempegaldesleukin in Combination With Nivolumab in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults With Recurrent or Refractory Malignancies (PIVOT IO 020)
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Intervention Type: Behavioral
  • Participants: 300
  • Start Date: December 2020
Long-term Evaluation of the Quality of Life and the Functional Repercussions of Former Patients Treated With Orthopedic Surgery, With or Without Radiotherapy