Most commonly found in children under 10-years old, Rhabdomyosarcomas are a type of soft tissue sarcoma. 1 Rhabdomyosarcoma can develop and grow in any part of the body and typically develop from muscle or fibrous tissue. They most commonly affect the head, neck, bladder, tested, womb or vagina. They can also be found in in a limb, in the chest or in the abdomen wall.
The most common symptoms of Rhabdomyosarcoma is a lump or swelling, however other symptoms may occur depending the location of the Rhabdomyosarcoma. For example, a cancer in the head or neck can cause a discharge from the nose or throat, a cancer in the abdomen may cause pain and constipation and a cancer in the bladder may cause the child to pass blood in the urine.
Currently the causes of Rhabdomyosarcomas are unknown, however, it is known that children with certain genetic disorders such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome have a higher risk of developing Rhabdomyosarcoma
The number of children in England diagnosed between 2003 and 2012 was 461 accounting for 3% of the childhood cancers diagnosed in that period.2
Because of the rarity of Rhabdomyosarcoma, they are usually treated in specialist centres. However, treatments typically include chemotherapy, surgery or radiotherapy, which may be combined depending on the severity of the cancer.
The statistics below are based on the five-year survival rate for children who were diagnosed under the age of 15 in England.
For those diagnosed in 2008-2012 the survival rate was 68% an increase of 3% for those diagnosed in 2003-2007 signalling an improvement in the effectiveness of treatments.2
Although free of cancer, approximately 60% of childhood cancer survivors will suffer from a “late-effect” caused by the treatments used to save their lives4