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The National Cancer Institute ( defines rhabdomyosarcoma as a cancer that forms in the soft tissues, often in a type of muscle called striated muscle. It can occur anywhere in the body but is most generally found in the structures of the head and neck, the urogenital tract, and the arms or legs. Although it has the appearance of a tumor of skeletal muscle, rhabdomyosarcoma can sometimes arise in parts of the body without muscle (the bile duct, the prostate, or along the meninges).

Rhabdomyosarcoma (rhabdo or RMS for short) is the most common soft tissue tumor in children.

There are five main types of rhabdomyosarcoma:

  • Embryonal: This type occurs most often in the head and neck area or in the genital or urinary organs. It is the most common type.
  • Alveolar: This type occurs most often in the arms or legs, chest, abdomen, genital organs, or anal area. It usually occurs during the teen years.
  • Anaplastic: This type rarely occurs in children.
  • Pleomorphic: This type occurs more often in adults.
  • Sclerosing: This is a newly recognized form of rhabdomyosarcoma.

While certain risk factors have been identified, in general, the causes of RMS are not yet fully understood.

Again, adapted from the NCI:

A possible sign of childhood rhabdomyosarcoma is a lump or swelling that keeps getting bigger.

Lumps and other symptoms may be caused by childhood rhabdomyosarcoma. The symptoms that occur depend on where the cancer forms. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Check with a doctor if your child has any of the following problems:

  • A lump or swelling that keeps getting bigger or does not go away. It may be painful, but sometimes it is not.
  • Bulging of the eye.
  • Headache.
  • Trouble urinating or having bowel movements.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Bleeding in the nose, throat, vagina, or rectum.

Rhabdo can be an extremely fast growing cancer that can metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body. It is important that it be diagnosed quickly.

For additional information and an extensive list of resources, please check out the Resource Pages and read this post.