Rhabdomyosarcoma in Children: Treatment Information


All rhabdomyosarcoma in children requires local control measures, which means treatment directed specifically to the site of the tumor. Local control can be surgery only, radiation only, or a combination of surgery and radiation. The best local control option depends on the location of the tumor, how easily it can be removed with surgery, and the results of any surgery performed. If RMS of embryonal histology is removed completely by surgery, and the pathologist determines the margins are negative (only normal cells are present at the edges of the removed mass), no further treatment may be necessary. In most other cases, radiation therapy may be used to minimize the risk that the tumor will come back in its original location.

Only about 15-20% of patients will have visible spreading (metastisis) of RMS, but all patients are considered to have micrometastatic spread (too small for detection by radiologic tests). For this reason, chemotherapy is used to treat all patients with RMS. Chemotherapy involves the use of medicine to kill cancer cells. Many different medications can be used, either alone or in combination, to treat various cancers. The specific combination selected depends on the type and extent of the cancer.

Research Studies

The majority of children with cancer participate in research studies. This high rate of participation has been essential to improving the cure rates for children’s cancer.

Researchers design various studies to improve treatment and advance the understanding of cancer and its causes. Clinical trials are carefully reviewed and must be approved through a formal scientific process before anyone can be enrolled. If there is a research study “open” that your child is “eligible for,” you may be asked to allow your child to participate. It is also possible that your child will be asked to participate in more than one study.

Whether an individual is eligible for a particular study may depend on age, location of the cancer, the extent of the disease and other information. Researchers usually must limit their study to some of these characteristics to have a scientifically valid study. Further, researchers must follow exactly the same restrictions throughout the study.

If your child is eligible to participate in one or more study, your doctor will discuss these with you during an initial treatment conference (also called informed consent conference). The doctor will describe the study, potential risks of participation, and other information you need to decide whether or not you would like your child to participate in the study. You always have the choice to participate or not in research studies.

If you do choose to have your child participate in a study, you doctor will explain what type of information you will receive about the results of the study. The overall results of the research study will be published to inform the public and other researchers. No study will publish any information that identifies an individual.

Visit the Clinical Trials section of this website to learn more about the various kinds of research studies.

Last updated July, 2011

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