Children's Hospital Colorado
SURGICAL ONCOLOGY

Rhabdomyosarcoma

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What is pediatric rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children. Sarcoma is a type of cancer that begins in the bones or soft tissues. Also known as RMS cancer, RMS is the third most common pediatric solid tumor that occurs outside the skull with only neuroblastoma and Wilms tumor being more common.

What causes rhabdomyosarcoma in children?

Rhabdomyosarcoma begins when a cell develops changes in its deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). A cell's DNA contains instructions on how that cell forms and functions. Changes in DNA are known as mutations. These mutated cells result in a tumor when they grow and multiply too quickly. The mass of these mutated cells grow and spread, or metastasize, to other tissues in the body. It is not known why these cells develop changes in the DNA and cause the cell to mutate and grow at a rapid rate.

Who gets rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma is rare, with about 450 children being diagnosed in the U.S. each year. RMS tends to occur primarily during two different age ranges. These age groups generally correspond to two different pathologic subtypes of RMS. Children ages 2 to 6 years old generally are affected by embryonal RMS. Although embryonal RMS can begin anywhere in the body, it is more likely to start in the head or neck area, in the urinary system, such as the bladder, in the reproductive system such as the vagina, uterus and testes, or in the arms and legs. Children ages 10 to 18 are generally affected by alveolar RMS.

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