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Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of cancer. It starts in cells that grow into skeletal muscle cells. The cells are called rhabdomyoblasts. Skeletal muscles control all of a person’s voluntary muscle movements. The cancer is most common in children under age 10, but it is rare. It can form anywhere in the body. A skull base rhabdomyosarcoma forms in the head and neck. It grows in the area where the spine connects to the skull (skull base). It may grow in other parts of the head as well. This includes the eyes, nose, throat, or sinuses.
There are two main types of rhabdomyosarcoma:
Some health conditions that are passed down through families (genetic) increase a child's risk. These include:
A child who has had radiation therapy for any cancer of the head is also at a higher risk.
Symptoms depend on the location and the size and of the tumor. The symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
Symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma that has spread may include:
The symptoms can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's health history and symptoms. He or she will examine your child. This will include a neurological exam. The exam tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, and coordination. Your child's healthcare provider may refer your child to a cancer specialist (oncologist). Your child may have tests such as:
Part of diagnosing cancer is called staging. Staging is the process of seeing if the cancer has spread, and where it has spread. Staging also helps to decide the treatment. There are different ways of staging cancer, but most range from stage 1 to stage 4. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about the stage of your child's cancer and what it means.
If your child has been diagnosed with skull base rhabdomyosarcoma, you may want your child to see another oncologist. This means to get a second opinion. Your insurance company may require a second opinion.
Because the cancer is so rare, it's important for your child to be treated at a center that specializes in the disease. Treatment will depend on the location, stage, and other factors. The cancer can be treated with any of the below:
With any cancer, how well a child is expected to recover (prognosis) varies. Keep in mind:
A child may have complications from the tumor or from treatment. They may include:
A child with skull base rhabdomyosarcoma needs ongoing care. Your child will be seen by oncologists and other healthcare providers to treat any late effects of treatment and to watch for signs or symptoms of the tumor returning. Your child will be checked with imaging tests and other tests. And your child may see other healthcare providers for problems from the tumor or from treatment. For example, your child may see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) for vision problems.
Your child may need therapy to help with movement and muscle strength. This may be done by physical and occupational therapists. If your child's speech is affected, he or she may need help from a speech therapist. Your child may also need the help of other therapists for learning or emotional problems.
You can help your child manage his or her treatment in many ways. For example:
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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