What is rhabdomyosarcoma?

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Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a cancer that starts in muscle cells or in early forms of muscle cells. A cancerous (malignant) tumour is a group of cancer cells that can grow into nearby tissue and destroy it. The tumour can also spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. RMS happens mostly in children.

Muscle is a type of soft tissue. Different types of soft tissues have different jobs. They give shape to the body and support it. They also protect other body tissues, bones and organs and hold them together. There are many different types of soft tissue throughout the body, including muscle, fat, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.

RMS can develop in any muscle in the body. The most common areas include:

  • the head and neck (such as near the eye, in the back of the nose, in the throat, near the spine in the neck or in the tissue surrounding the brain)
  • the genitourinary system (such as the bladder, vulva, vagina, uterus, ovaries, prostate and around the testicles)
  • the extremities (such as the arm, leg, hand or foot)
  • the trunk (such as the chest, abdomen, pelvis or diaphragm)

The most common type of RMS is called embryonal RMS. It makes up 50% to 70% of all RMS in children.

RMS is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children. It is rare in adults.

Types of rhabdomyosarcoma

There are 2 main types of rhabdomyosarcoma that occur in children. Learn about the types of rhabdomyosarcoma.