Rhabdomyosarcoma Symptoms and Causes – Apollo Hospitals Blog

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer that occurs in soft tissues. These cancers are one of the rarest forms and affect the skeletal tissues or sometimes hollow organs such as the uterus and bladder. It is common in children, but the condition can affect people of any age.

What is Rhabdomyosarcoma?

The name rhabdomyosarcoma is derived from the term rhabdomyoblasts, the cells from which this cancer arises. When the human embryo is only a few weeks old, these cells begin to develop. They eventually transform into tissues that make up the skeletal muscles, the muscles that facilitate the movement of the body.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is usually found in children because rhabdoblasts are present in the developing embryos. Half of the cases of this condition are found in children, but there are also reports of adults with rhabdomyosarcoma.

Types of rhabdomyosarcomas

  1. Embryonic rhabdomyosarcomas are the most common types among such cancers. Children under the age of five are most commonly affected by this condition. ERMS usually occurs in the bladder, vagina, or head and neck area, or in or around the prostate and testicles.
  2. Alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas tend to grow faster and also spread faster. They can occur in older age groups and can affect larger muscles of the trunk, arms and legs.
  3. Anaplastic rhabdomyosarcomas are rare in children.

The real cause of the condition is still unknown to scientists. However, it is believed to be a genetic condition.

  • Children who inherit certain genetic diseases are at greater risk of developing rhabdomyosarcomas. Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Noonan syndrome, Costello syndrome are among such genetic disorders that can be inherited.

What Are the Symptoms of Rhabdomyosarcoma?

When cancer affects the head and neck region

  • Bleeding in the nose, throat or ears
  • Bulging or swollen eyes
  • Vision problems
  • Crossed eyes (strabismus)
  • headache
  • earache
  • Nasal congestion or nosebleeds

If cancer affects the urinary bladder or reproductive system

  • Difficulty with bowel movements
  • vomit
  • pain
  • Constipation
  • Problems urinating and blood in the urine
  • A mass or bleeding in the vagina or rectum

If cancer affects the arms or legs

  • Pain in the affected area
  • Swelling or a lump in the arm or leg that may also be painless

What Are the Causes of Rhabdomyosarcoma?

The actual cause of the condition is unknown, but research is ongoing to find better treatment modalities.

  1. Swelling/bulging in the affected area with or without pain
  2. Sudden bleeding from nose or ear
  3. Loss of bladder or bowel control
  4. Problems with urination

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What is the treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma?


The goal of surgery is to eliminate all cancer cells. However, if the rhabdomyosarcoma has developed around or near organs or other vital structures, it is not always viable. When surgery can’t completely remove the cancer, doctors may remove as much as possible before using other therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation, to destroy any remaining cancer cells.


Chemotherapy is one of the most effective treatments for cancer. Chemotherapy can also be used to kill any leftover cancer cells after surgery or radiation therapy. It can be used as combination therapy or after radiation for better results.

radiation therapy

To kill cancer cells, radiation therapy uses high-energy rays such as X-rays and protons. After surgery, radiation therapy may be suggested to eradicate any remaining cancer cells.

Radiotherapy can also be used if surgery is not possible. Sometimes the tumor is present near a vital organ or may affect multiple organs. Radiotherapy is an effective technique in such situations.


Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare cancer. This condition is more common in children. The true cause of the condition is unknown, but research is ongoing to find better treatment modalities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Anaplastic Rhabdomyosarcoma Prevent In Children?

No, it is a rare form of cancer in adults and does not usually occur in children. Children usually suffer from alveolar and embryonic rhabdomyosarcoma.

What Are the Complications of Rhabdomyosarcoma?

  • Cancer tumors that spread (metastasize)
  • Cancer recurrences
  • Long-term side effects such as pain, swelling, loss of bladder and bowel control

Will my child also get rhabdomyosarcoma if I suffer from it?

Inheriting rhabdomyosarcoma is rare and passing it on to your children is not very common.

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