Research and clinical trials are providing hope
Rhabdomyosarcomais the most common soft tissue malignant tumor in children. It can arise in any muscle in the body, but is most common in the head and neck area as well as the area of the pelvis.
The usual presenting symptom of the sarcoma is a painless mass. When pain appears, the tumor generally develops to its advanced stage. X-rays, CT or MRI scans are helpful to diagnose them.
- X-rays are especially useful for tumors of the arms and legs.
- CT scans (similar to x-rays) are used to look at the tumor but are also done on the chest to determine if the cancer has spread to the lungs. The lungs are the most common site for these tumors to spread.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans use magnetic waves to take more detailed pictures of tumors and may be critical to the planning of surgery and/or radiation therapy.
- A tissue biopsy is required for an accurate diagnosis and to determine the type of sarcoma, and must be done before treatment starts.
- Most treatment protocols call for intense intravenous chemotherapy for about 12 weeks to shrink the tumor.
- A decision is then made regarding “local control” of the tumor. Can the tumor be surgically removed, or will it need to be treated with radiation, or will it require both?
- Typically, another 24 weeks of chemotherapy follows the surgery and/or radiation.
Different types of treatments are available for children with rhabdomyosarcoma. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Children with rhabdomyosarcoma should have their treatment planned by a team of health care providers who are experts in treating cancer in children.