MSK experts Michael LaQuaglia, Paul Meyers & Leonard Wexler treat rhabdomyosarcoma

(From left) Pediatric surgeon Michael La Quaglia talks with sarcoma experts Paul Meyers and Leonard Wexler.

What is Rhabdomyosarcoma?

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare childhood cancer that begins in muscles. Any muscle in the body can be involved. Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms of this disease. Most children with rhabdomyosarcoma are cured.

In general, sarcomas are cancers in bones, muscles, and connective tissue throughout the body. They can affect children, adolescents, and young adults, even up to age 40. There are several types of pediatric sarcomas, including rhabdomyosarcoma. Memorial Sloan Kettering has the largest sarcoma program in the world for the care of children, teens, and young adults.

This information is about sarcoma in children.

Learn about soft tissue sarcoma in adults.

Types of Rhabdomyosarcoma

There are two main types of rhabdomyosarcoma. The type of treatment that’s best depends on the kind of rhabdomyosarcoma.

Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma

Embryonal is the more common type, and it’s found in the head and neck or genital and urinary organs.

Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma

Alveolar is more rare. It’s found in the arms, legs, chest, abdomen, genitals, or anal area.

Risk Factors for Rhabdomyosarcoma

Some genetic conditions put a person at higher risk for rhabdomyosarcoma, but in most cases, the cause of this cancer is unknown. It is slightly more common in boys than in girls, and often occurs before a child turns five.

Each year, about 350 children, adolescents, and young adults are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma. Our team of experts treats more than 25 newly diagnosed patients each year, through conventional therapies and rhabdomyosarcoma clinical trials.