This is a cancer of the striated muscle tissue, which is present all over the body so Rhabdomyosarcoma can occur anywhere in the body. It is most common in children between 1-5 years of age.

The disease can spread via the lymphatic system which means the original tumour grows until it invades other organs or tissue.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms will vary and depend on where the tumour develops:

  • Head and neck: A tumour may arise inside the nose or sinuses and cause a blocked nose or discharge from the nose. It may also appear as a mass protruding from the ear.
  • Eye socket or orbit: A tumour here would cause the eye to protrude.
  • Muscle of the arms or legs: The tumour will show up as a lump.
  • Trunk of the body: Any surface muscle tumours will be visible as lumps on the body. Deeper muscle tumours may take longer to become obvious. They may end up being discovered accidentally by a parent or sometimes the lump may press on another organ, causing obstruction and therefore alert the parent or doctor to an underlying problem. For example; the tumour may compress the rectum leading to constipation.
  • Genitourinary system: The organ system of the reproductive organs or urinary system: Tumours arising in the bladder will interrupt the passing of urine. Tumours may start in the vagina presenting as a mass like a bunch of grapes on the outside of the vagina. Tumours may also arise in the testes and prostate in boys.
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma may spread to the lungs, brain, bones and bone marrow. Sometimes the first sign your child has this tumour may be through noticing symptoms of disease in one of these sites.


Diagnosis of Rhabdomyosarcoma is made via a biopsy of a piece of the tumour. The child will also undergo x-rays, CT scans and a bone marrow biopsy to determine if and where the tumour has spread.


  • Stage I – tumour completely removed in surgery and no lymph nodes are involved.
  • Stage II – tiny amount of tumour is left behind at surgery, or lymph nodes are involved.
  • Stage III –a substantial amount of the tumour was left behind at surgery.
  • Stage IV – tumour has spread throughout the body.


The treatment of Rhabdomyosarcoma involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  


The prognosis for these tumours depends on multiple factors, including how far the tumour has spread, whether it can be removed surgically and how the tumour appears under the microscope.