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Cancer Health Center

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Childhood Rhabdomyosarcoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Treatment Options for Childhood Rhabdomyosarcoma

Previously Untreated Childhood Rhabdomyosarcoma

The treatment of childhood rhabdomyosarcoma often includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The order that these treatments are given depends on where in the body the tumor started, the size of the tumor, the type of tumor, and whether the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. See the Treatment Option Overview section of this summary for more information about surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy used to treat children with rhabdomyosarcoma.

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General Information

The PDQ childhood brain tumor treatment summaries are organized primarily according to the World Health Organization classification of nervous system tumors.[1,2] For a full description of the classification of nervous system tumors and a link to the corresponding treatment summary for each type of brain tumor, refer to the PDQ summary on Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors Treatment Overview. Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved for children and adolescents with cancer. Between...

Read the General Information article > >

Rhabdomyosarcoma of the brain and head and neck

  • For tumors of the brain: Treatment may include surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
  • For tumors of the head and neck that are in or near the eye: Treatment may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If the tumor remains or comes back after treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, surgery to remove the eye and some tissues around the eye may be needed.
  • For tumors of the head and neck that are near the brain and spinal cord but not in or near the eye: Treatment may include radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  • For tumors of the head and neck that cannot be removed by surgery: Treatment may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • For tumors of the larynx (voice box): Treatment may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Surgery to remove the larynx is usually not done, so that the voice is not harmed.

Rhabdomyosarcoma of the arms or legs

  • Surgery to remove the tumor. If the tumor was not completely removed, a second surgery to remove the tumor may be done.
  • For tumors of the hand or foot, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be given. The tumor may not be removed because the function of the hand or foot would be lessened.
  • Lymph node dissection (one or more lymph nodes are removed and a sample of tissue is checked under a microscope for signs of cancer).
    • For tumors in the arms, lymph nodes near the tumor and in the armpit area are removed.
    • For tumors in the legs, lymph nodes near the tumor and in the groin area are removed.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy.
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