Cancer by the Numbers: Rhabdomyosarcoma

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rhabdomyosarcomaby Kristina Collins, The Cancer Blog

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of soft tissue cancer that is most often found in children. This cancer will usually present itself as a noticeable lump. Since this is a cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles, the lump can appear in different locations of the body. Although most of our skeletal muscles are in our limbs and truck, it is usually found elsewhere.

The most common sites that rhabdomyosarcoma tumors are found:

  • Head and Neck (30%-40%)
  • Urinary and Reproductive Organs (20%-25%)
  • Arms and Legs (18%-20%)
  • Truck (7%)

There are two main types of rhabdomyosarcomas that occur in children, embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma and alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. The embryonal type (ERMS) is the most common type and usually occurs in infants and young children. The alveolar type (ARMS) usually effects older children and teenagers. Embryonal has a better prognosis than alveolar, which is a more aggressive tumor type.

About 3 percent of childhood cancers are diagnosed as rhabdomyosarcoma. In the United States about 350 new cases arise each year. It is the most common type of sarcoma occurring in the soft tissues, which is tissue that lies between the skin and the bone. It is the sixth most common cancer in children.

The researchers say there are no known environmental risk factors that cause rhabdomyosarcoma. There are some inherited conditions that can increase the risk of developing rhabdomyosarcoma but these are only a small fraction of those diagnosed. L-Fraumeni syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, neurofibromatosis and Costello syndrome are inherited conditions that are known to lead to different forms of cancer. This information gives the researchers of this disease some key knowledge in understanding the disease and points them in the direction of a genetic cause for this type of cancer.

There are four stages of rhabdomyosarcoma that is discussed here. Survival rates depend on the type of rhabdomyosarcoma, whether it is ERMS or ARMS, the stage of the disease and also the clinical grouping that is also done along with staging.

The clinical groupings consist of:

  • Group I: localized disease with no spread elsewhere in the body, the tumor is completely removed by the surgeon and no lymph nodes are involved. Five year survival rate is over 90 percent.
  • Group II: cancer has been found at the edge of the removed tumor which suggests disease left behind, lymph nodes are involved. Five year survival rate is around 70 percent.
  • Group III: tumors cannot be completely removed and can be seen with the naked eye, no evidence of distant spread. Five year survival is around 55 percent.
  • Group IV: evidence of distant spread at time of diagnosis. Five year survival rate is around 20 to 25 percent.

Age of the patient, site of tumor and the type of tumor will effect these numbers. It is important to examine the clinical grouping and stage of the patient to determine the best treatment option. Treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma is usually a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

To find more information about rhabdomyosarcoma you can visit these sites:

American Cancer Society

National Cancer Institute

Ped-Onc Research Center

source - The Cancer Blog

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