Rhabdomyosarcoma: what it is, symptoms, types and how to treat

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of cancer that develops in soft tissues, affecting mainly children and adolescents up to 18 years of age. This type of cancer can appear in almost all parts of the body, since it develops where there is skeletal muscle, however, it can also appear in some organs such as the bladder, prostate or vagina.

Normally, rhabdomyosarcoma is formed during pregnancy, even during the embryonic phase, in which the cells that will give rise to the skeletal muscle become malignant and begin to multiply without control, causing cancer.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is curable when diagnosis and treatment are carried out in the early stages of tumor development, with a greater likelihood of cure when treatment is started soon after the child's birth.

Types of radiomyosarcoma

There are two main types of rhabdomyosarcoma:

  • Embryonic rhabdomyosarcoma, which is the most common type of cancer and occurs most frequently in babies and children. Embryonic rhabdomyosarcoma tends to develop in the area of ​​the head, neck, bladder, vagina, prostate and testicles;
  • Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which occurs most frequently in older children and adolescents, mainly affecting the muscles of the chest, arms and legs. This cancer gets its name because the tumor cells form small hollow spaces in the muscles, called alveoli.

In addition, when rhabdomyosarcoma develops in the testicles, it becomes known as paratesticular rhabdomyosarcoma, being more frequent in people up to 20 years of age and usually leads to swelling and pain in the testicle. Know other causes of swelling in the testicles

Symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma

The symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma vary according to the size and location of the tumor, which may be:

  • Mass that can be seen or felt in the region in the limbs, head, trunk or groin;
  • Tingling, numbness and pain in the limbs;
  • Constant headache;
  • Bleeding from the nose, throat, vagina or rectum;
  • Vomiting, abdominal pain and constipation, in the case of tumors in the abdomen;
  • Yellowed eyes and skin, in the case of tumors in the bile ducts;
  • Bone pain, cough, weakness and weight loss, when rhabdomyosarcoma is at an advanced stage.

The diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma is carried out through blood and urine tests, X-rays, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and tumor biopsy to check for the presence of cancer cells and identify the degree of malignancy of the tumor. The prognosis of rhabdomyosarcoma varies from person to person, however the sooner the diagnosis is made and treatment begins, the greater the chances of cure and the lesser the possibility of the tumor to reappear in adulthood.

How the treatment is done

The treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma should be started as soon as possible, being recommended by the general practitioner or pediatrician, in the case of children and adolescents. Usually, surgery to remove the tumor is indicated, especially when the disease has not yet reached other organs.

In addition, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also be used before or after surgery to try to reduce the size of the tumor and eliminate possible metastases in the body.

The treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma, when performed in children or adolescents, can have some effects on growth and development, causing lung problems, delays in bone growth, changes in sexual development, infertility or learning problems.