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What is Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS or "rhabdo")?

Male Urinary Tract
Male urinary tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Female Urinary Tract
Female urinary tract
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare and sometimes deadly cancer that affects children. Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma often starts in the genital and urinary organs. It affects soft, connective tissue, and can hit many systems of the body.

What are its symptoms? How should it be treated? The information here can help you when you talk with your urologist or oncologist.

Key Statistics

Early in the development of an embryo, cells called rhabdomyoblasts begin to form. These become skeletal muscles. These cells can form abnormally into RMS.

This cancer, from embryonal RMS cells, is much more common in children than adults. There are two peaks when it’s found. Either from ages two to four, or from ages 15 to 19.

About 3 out of 100 of all childhood cancers are RMS. Of these, about 20 out of 100 first find it in the genitourinary tract (genitals or urinary). RMS in the genitourinary tract can affect the bladder, prostate, vagina and paratesticular areas.

What happens normally?

Children should not have large lumps in their belly, genitals or rectum. They should be able to urinate without straining and with no sign of blood.