A rhabdomyosarcoma belongs to the group of soft tissue tumors; Rhabdomyosarcomas develop from degenerated or immature cells of the muscle or connective tissue. Almost exclusively children are affected by a rhabdomyosarcoma; 87% of all sufferers are younger than 15 years. Boys are affected slightly more often than girls.
What is rhabdomyosarcoma?
A rhabdomyosarcoma develops from degenerated cells of the muscle tissue. A rhabdomyosarcoma can occur practically anywhere in the body, although there has been an accumulation of foci of origin in the paranasal sinuses, the nasal and pharyngeal cavity, the eye sockets, the bladder cavity and the vagina. For about faecal impaction, please visit bittranslators.com.
Adults are very rarely affected by rhabdomyosarcoma, but rhabdomyosarcoma usually occurs in children under the age of 15. Boys are affected more often than girls with a probability of 1 in 4.
The causes of rhabdomyosarcoma have not yet been clearly identified. However, there is a connection between the occurrence of certain pre-existing conditions and the occurrence of rhabdomyosarcoma.
Previous radiation therapy or an infection with the HI or EB virus have a negative effect on the likelihood of developing rhabdomyosarcoma.
A genetic connection is also suspected, in particular a disease of the genetic Li-Fraumeni syndrome. It is very likely that the tumor cells originate from mesenchymal cells – these are embryonic cells from which muscle and connective tissue later develop.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma depend on the extent and location. The head, the urogenital tract and the extremities are usually affected. Adults rarely suffer from the disease, children all the more often. The tumors usually spread the disease to other nearby areas of the body. Metastases form. The brain and pelvic organs are noticeably often affected. The individual manifestation of the complaints knows hardly any limits.
Protrusion of the eyeballs is typical of a rhabdomyosarcoma in the head and neck region. Sometimes there is swelling in the jaw. Breathing through the nose is difficult. Some patients even report hearing problems. If the urogenital tract is affected, patients complain of pain when urinating.
A burning sensation accompanies urination. The excretion is not infrequently mixed with blood. Abdominal pain is also very common, indicating the spread of the infestation. There are other signs depending on gender. The testicles are swollen in male patients and vaginal bleeding in female patients.
If the rhabdomyosarcoma occurs on the extremities, swelling occurs there. These do not necessarily have to be painful. In addition, the affected body appendages can no longer be moved as usual.
Diagnosis & History
A rhabdomyosarcoma forms clearly palpable swellings and tumors. Less frequently, tumors can also occur that are too small to feel or are only visible under a microscope.
The patient will also feel pain and, depending on the location and size of the tumor, will have to accept significant limitations in movement. If a doctor can feel tumors or recognize them after a sonography (examination with ultrasound), he will initiate further diagnostic steps. This essentially includes the biopsy. With a thin needle, he will remove tissue under local anesthesia and then have it examined pathologically. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and does not cause any pain. The laboratory physician can use the cell structure to conclude that there is a rhabdomyosarcoma.
After a positive result, the doctor will clarify the degree of the disease. To do this, he will use computer tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine whether the tumor has already formed metastases or whether only the primary tumor is present. He will also determine whether it is a recurrence (cancer that has come back from a previous, same type of cancer). Depending on the degree of the disease, the doctor will initiate further therapeutic steps.
Left untreated, rhabdomyosarcoma leads to death within a few weeks or months because it quickly spreads through the bloodstream and lymphatic system. Today, however, the prognosis has improved significantly due to intensive treatment with significantly more effective chemotherapeutic agents. Furthermore, the prognosis and the development of complications depend on the type of rhabdomyosarcoma.
The alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma grows much more aggressively than the so-called embryonic rhabdomyosarcoma. The formation of metastases also takes place much faster in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. The same applies to the risk of developing recurrences. Although rhabdomyosarcomas can occur in almost any organ, they prefer the head and neck area, the limbs and the urinary and genital organs.
The symptoms that occur depend on the location of the respective rhabdomyosarcoma. Abdominal pain, painful urination and blood in the urine are common. Metastases are initially found in the neighboring lymph nodes, in the skeletal system and in the lungs. Complete healing of rhabdomyosarcoma is now possible if intensive cancer therapy begins before metastases appear.
However, successful surgical removal of the tumor also depends on its location. After the complete removal is treated with radiotherapy. Tumors that are not fully detected can form recurrences years later. In this case, there is also an increased risk of metastases forming.
When should you go to the doctor?
Since rhabdomyosarcoma is a tumor, it should always be treated by a doctor. This disease does not heal itself, and rhabdomyosarcoma cannot be treated by self-help measures. In the worst case, if left untreated, the victim may die. An early diagnosis of the disease always has a very positive effect on the further course. As a rule, the doctor should be consulted for rhabdomyosarcoma if the person concerned suffers from severe swelling of the eyes or protruding eyeballs.
The affected person’s breathing is also made more difficult, so that strenuous activities or sporting activities cannot be carried out easily. In girls, rhabdomyosarcoma often causes vaginal bleeding that occurs for no particular reason. Pain when urinating can also indicate this disease and should be examined and treated by a doctor.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is most often diagnosed in a hospital. Further treatment is then carried out by a specialist depending on the symptoms. The life expectancy of those affected may also be limited by the rhabdomyosarcoma.
Treatment & Therapy
As a rule, the tumor is surgically removed first. A computed tomography or a magnetic resonance tomography performed as part of the diagnosis facilitates the planning of the operation and limits the area in which radiation will subsequently take place.
Chemotherapy is tried in addition to radiation therapy. Both are intended to prevent any tumor cells that may still be present from spreading or growing. If the tumor is not operable, an attempt is first made to shrink the tumor with chemotherapy, so that surgical removal is still possible afterwards.
If the combined therapy consisting of tumor removal, radiotherapy and chemotherapy is successful, the prognosis is good. The 5-year forecast is 70%. If metastases have already formed, the prognosis is around 30%. If it is a recurrence, the prognosis is significantly lower.
Rhabdomyosarcoma can not be prevented. However, it is recommended that children who suffer from an unfavorable pre-existing condition (EBV or HIV infection, previous radiotherapy, the presence of Li-Fraumeni syndrome) be seen by a doctor at frequent intervals. If a child repeatedly complains of pain in the area of the throat, nose, eye sockets or vagina, it should also be presented to a doctor.
Once the rhabdomyosarcoma disease has been overcome or treated, the person concerned should also be closely examined for renewed disease. Especially in the case of children at risk, a healthy lifestyle – healthy nutrition, plenty of exercise in the fresh air – should reduce the likelihood of developing cancer.
The disease is very serious and must be treated by doctors. However, there are many therapies that sufferers can carry out at home. In this way, the symptoms can be alleviated. For adequate regeneration, those affected should take it easy after the treatment.
Since the immune system is extremely weakened after the treatment, contact with sick people in the social environment should be avoided. Those affected should have an intact sleep hygiene. Sufficient sleep is very important after the treatment. A balanced and vitamin-rich diet and exercise should also be tackled after the treatment.
This significantly strengthens the immune system. Since in most of the cases the disease is a great burden for those affected, it is recommended to undergo permanent psychological counseling. Visiting a self-help group can also help those affected to learn how to live with the disease.
In the self-help group, those affected can also exchange ideas with other sufferers and learn new ways of coping with the disease. As a result, many do not feel alone. Close relatives should also be sufficiently involved in life. They can also support and help those affected. Drugs containing nicotine and alcohol should be avoided at all costs, as this can lead to unwanted complications.
You can do that yourself
Rhabdomyosarcoma is a serious condition that needs to be treated by experienced doctors. However, self-help in everyday life can support therapies or alleviate their consequences. Depending on whether surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy is or has been used, rest is recommended for the patient for optimal regeneration. Due to the weakened immune system, it is better to avoid contact with people who have an infection. A good night’s sleep is just as important as a healthy diet and drinking enough water.
The thought of suffering from a malignant disease is often distressing. Self-help groups help to process this finding. It is often children and adolescents who are affected by rhamboymyosarcoma. They benefit from psychologists or psycho-oncologists who specialize in adolescents. Parents can then be involved in these therapies in a goal-oriented manner. This also applies to teachers, so that children can continue to learn well dosed during the illness and do not lose touch with the class.
Exercise is a factor that can also be integrated into self-help. Here the individual strengths of the patient must be taken into account. A walk in the fresh air is just as helpful as some fitness after surviving therapy. Adult patients are better off avoiding nicotine and alcohol, since vascular toxins are of course not conducive to cancer.