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Rhabdomyosarcoma in children (RMS or ‘rhabdo’) is a tumor made up of cancerous cells that look like immature muscle cells. In the United States, about 350 new cases are diagnosed each year in children under 15. Almost two-thirds of children’s rhabdo cases develop in children under 10.
In children, there are two major subtypes of RMS, based on the way the tumor cells look under the microscope.
Under the microscope, rhabdomyosarcoma can look similar to several other types of children’s cancers such as neuroblastoma, Ewing sarcoma and lymphoma. It is important to be sure about the type of cancer and its location before deciding on a treatment plan.
It is now possible to cure nearly 3 of every 4 children with rhabdomyosarcoma. Prognostic factors are characteristics of the patients and their tumors that are designated as more or less “favorable” based on the outcome of thousands of patients treated over decades. These factors are also used to determine the best choice of therapy. Although the “unfavorable” forms of cancer require more intensive treatment than “favorable,” all RMS are treated with chemotherapy. Surgery is always used to make a diagnosis and sometimes as part of the treatment. In most cases, radiation therapy is part of the treatment.
Children with these conditions are at higher risk for rhabdomyosarcoma, but these account for only a small fraction of cases. These syndromes usually require medical care, so you would know if your child had one of them.
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