This page tells you about a type of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma and its treatment. There is information about
There are 3 distinct types of rhabdomyosarcoma.
Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma tends to occur in children under 15 and in the head and neck region and the bladder or genital area.
Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma occurs in the arms or legs of older children and young people but can also occur in the muscles of the trunk.
Pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma usually occurs in adults and in the arms or legs.
If it is possible to remove the tumour, you are likely to have surgery. The surgeon removes the tumour along with a border of healthy looking tissue around it. After the operation, they send the tumour to the laboratory. A specialist technician examines the border of healthy tissue for cancer cells.
If there are no cancer cells there, your doctor will tell you there were clear tissue margins. As far as your surgeon can tell, all the tissue containing cancer cells has been taken away. Having clear tissue margins means there is a lower risk of your cancer coming back in the same place.
If you have embryonal or alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma you are likely to have chemotherapy before or after surgery.
If surgery is not possible, radiotherapy may be used with chemotherapy to try to get rid of the tumour. Sometimes surgery to remove rhabdomyosarcoma may have a large effect on the way you look. In cases like this, where surgery would be very disfiguring, the doctor may offer you radiotherapy instead of surgery.
With embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, the position in the body can decide the treatment. Surgery may be the initial treatment. Chemotherapy tends to work well for this type of sarcoma. You may have chemotherapy before surgery to shrink a tumour and make it easier to remove. Or it may be given after surgery to try to reduce the chance of the tumour coming back.
If the tumour is in a place where it is not possible to remove it completely with surgery (for example, behind the nose or in the eye socket), your doctor will treat it with a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
With alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, usually the tumour is removed with surgery and then you have radiotherapy to the area where the tumour was. The radiotherapy aims to reduce the chance of the tumour coming back in the same place. Chemotherapy is usually be given before or after the surgery.
With pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma, usually the treatment is surgery and then radiotherapy. The radiotherapy aims to reduce the chance of the tumour coming back in the same place. Chemotherapy tends not to work very well and so is not usually used.
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