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What Is Childhood Rhabdomyosarcoma?

  • Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancerous tumor that grows in the body's soft tissues (which connect, support or surround organs and other body structures), particularly in the muscles that attach to bone and help the body to move. Just weeks into the life of a developing embryo, rhabdomyoblast cells (which grow into muscle over time) begin to form. These are the cells that can develop into rhabdomyosarcoma.

    • Because this is a cancer of embryonal cells, it is much more common in children, although it can occur in adults.
    • Rhabdomyosarcomas are most often located in the head, neck, bladder, vagina, arms, legs and trunk.
    • These tumors can also be found in places where skeletal muscles are absent or very small, such as the prostate, middle ear or bile duct system.

    Rhabdomyosarcoma treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's

    Children with rhabdomyosarcoma are treated through the Bone and Soft Tissue Tumor Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Our specialists — including pediatric oncologists, surgical oncologists and radiation oncologists — offer a level of expertise in soft tissue tumors rarely seen at other pediatric cancer centers. We provide the full set of options that can be used to treat rhabdomyosarcoma, and our specialists can help you determine which option is best for your child.

    Learn more about rhabdomyosarcoma

    Find in-depth details on rhabdomyosarcoma on the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's website, including answers to:

    • How is rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosed?
    • What is the best treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma?
    • What is the latest research on rhabdomyosarcoma?
    • What is the long-term outlook for children with rhabdomyosarcoma?