In this section
Several different types of tumour may grow in muscles, sinews or
the fibrous tissue, which surrounds muscle. The most common is a
Rhabdomyosarcoma, a tumour of muscle. Rhabdomyosarcoma usually
occurs in children between the ages of one and five years. Most
commonly the tumour may appear in the head or neck, including the
muscles around the eye, in the back of the throat, in the cheek or
in part of the ear inside the skull. Other parts of the body often
affected include the bladder, womb, vagina, prostate and the tissue
around the testicles. Less commonly, the tumour grows in the
muscles of the arms, legs, or trunk.
Depending on where the cancer develops it can cause very
different symptoms. A lump may be noticed, perhaps in a child's
head, neck, chest or a limb. There may be bleeding from the child's
ear, nose, or vagina. A grape like growth may appear from one of
these places. If the cancer is in the region of the bladder, it may
be difficult for the child to pass urine.
The diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma is made by taking a biopsy of
the tumour. Before any treatment begins, further tests, such as
blood tests, bone marrow aspiration, CT, MRI and bone scans are
done to find out if the cancer has spread. Chest X-rays are always
done to see whether the tumour has spread to the chest. Ultrasound
examinations may be done as well. (Refer to section on tests and
All children with Rhabdomyosarcoma need chemotherapy as part of
treatment. Chemotherapy helps to shrink the main tumour if it
cannot be removed surgically at the beginning and also kills cells
that have moved from the main tumour to other parts of the
body. Sometimes both surgery and radiotherapy are needed.
Treatment programs need to be adapted to the site of the
After treatment has finished the child will be seen at regular
intervals to monitor growth and development. Long term side effects
depend on exactly what surgery was needed, what drugs were given,
and whether radiotherapy was given.