Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous (malignant) tumor of the muscles that are attached to bones.  A rhabdomyosarcoma can occur in many places in the body, most commonly around the structures of the head and neck, within the urogenital tract, and in the arms or legs.

This type of tumor is the most common soft tissue tumor in children.

At the Solid Tumor Oncology Program, part of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, we provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for children with rhabdomyosarcoma.

Our dedicated team of specialists evaluates your child in a single visit, and will create a customized treatment plan and begin your individualized treatment plan immediately. We are one of the first in the nation to offer this type of collaborative care for children with cancer. We are also one of the nation’s largest multidisciplinary programs caring for children with solid tumors, and have the largest pediatric oncology research effort in the state.

Our Tumor Board meets weekly to discuss the care and treatment of children who are newly diagnosed with cancer, those currently on therapy, and families seeking a second opinion. Pediatric oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians attend the Tumor Board, allowing for our collective expertise to provide a thorough, comprehensive approach to the care of children with cancer.

Rhabdomyosarcoma Symptoms

Symptoms will vary depending on tumor size and where it is located. Symptoms can include:

  • Bloody mucus
  • Pain, lumps, or swelling in the arms, legs, abdomen or back, that grows quickly or doesn’t go away after a few weeks
  • Trouble having a bowel movement, or poor control of urine

Rhabdomyosarcoma Diagnosis

Diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma begins with a thorough health history and a comprehensive physical examination. Some testing will be required and may include an x-ray, an ultrasound, a CT scan, an MRI, and a bone scan. A biopsy to confirm the diagnosis is performed by removing a small piece of tissue from the tumor for examination under a microscope. A bone marrow biopsy may also be required to determine if the cancer has spread to the bone marrow.

If a rhabdomyosarcoma is the diagnosis, your doctor will stage the tumor, which determines if and how far the cancer has spread. Staging the tumor will help determine a treatment plan.

Rhabdomyosarcoma Treatment

Every child’s treatment plan is individualized, based on the patient’s needs and the specific tumor, utilizing cutting-edge technology and the latest research. Treatment options include:

Surgery – the standard therapy for treating rhabdomyosarcoma is surgery to remove the tumor.

Surgery to remove tumor is performed by our renowned pediatric general surgery team, each of whom specializes in minimally invasive approaches to tumor resection whenever possible.

Chemotherapy – chemotherapy may be required before surgery (to shrink the tumor and/or control spreading), after surgery (to eliminate any cancerous cells still present), or both. Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs that can destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy includes a variety of drugs that are given in a variety of ways. We provide all available chemotherapy options, including continuous infusion chemotherapy, which is given slowly over one or more days through a pump that you carry with you.

Radiation – Radiation is the use of high-energy radiation – primarily X-rays – to kill cancer cells. When radiation treatments are given for cancer, special care is taken to ensure that as much normal tissue as possible is spared from radiation exposure. The radiation dose is precisely measured and carefully aimed to kill as many cancer cells as possible while sparing normal tissue. Learn more about radiation therapy at Mott Children’s Hospital.

Clinical trials – Our specialists are at the center of developing new therapies for cancer. In fact, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is one of only a few pediatric centers in the country providing patients access to Phase 1 clinical trials. Phase 1 clinical trials give patients at University of Michigan access to pivotal early-stage studies, connecting families to novel treatment therapies to patients before they are widely available.

At any time, you can ask your doctor or any of our health care professionals about clinical trial participation opportunities or you can view or sign up for studies that are currently recruiting participants at umhealthresearch.org.

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For more information or to make an appointment, call 734-936-9814.