Rhabdomyosarcoma is an infrequent type of cancer that manifests in the soft tissues of the body such as the muscles and connective tissues. With this condition, the cancer cells look like immature muscle cells. This disease can affect a person of any age but in most cases, it affects children and young people in general.
There are many healthcare facilities in the United States that specialize in the treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma. However, patients need to travel from their homes to access these facilities. In most cases, insurance plans cover only medical treatments but not travel costs. This means that you need to make proper plans so that travel expenses are put at the minimum.
If you are already set on the facility that you want to go for rhabdomyosarcoma treatment, consultation or second opinion, you can go ahead and make travel plans. You can otherwise check the list of facilities that offer rhabdomyosarcoma treatments in the US. In case you are unable to meet your own travel expenses, you can consult our directory of charitable organizations that help in arranging cost-free travel for medical purposes.
Each year, approximately 350 children are diagnosed with the disease. More than half of these children are usually below the age of 10 years. This figure translates to about three percent of all new childhood cancer s annually in the country. This is therefore the most common soft tissue sarcoma in young ones.
Rhabdomyosarcoma mostly affects the following body parts and organs;
The five-year survival rate for children younger than 14 years is 70 percent. However, this rate varies depending on where the tumor is formed, the disease stage, risk group and how old the patient is. Patients between one and nine years have better prognosis than younger and older patients.
Where to Go for Rhabdomyosarcoma Treatments
There are many healthcare facilities in the United States where patients can seek medical treatments for rhabdomyosarcoma. These facilities have what it takes in terms of equipments, staff and medications to provide the most suitable treatment options for rhabdomyosarcoma and other types of cancer and illnesses. Among the best hospitals for rhabdomyosarcoma treatments includes;
- MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Center
The team that treats children for soft tissue sarcoma in this hospital includes highly trained doctors (including oncologists, surgical and radiation oncologists). These are supported by a team of dedicated experts such as advanced practice nurses, therapists, physician assistants, and social workers.
Rhabdomyosarcoma Stages and Groups
Experts use grouping and staging systems to describe the disease. Staging describes where the disease has formed, if and to where it has spread to and whether the disease is affecting other body parts. This is done by use of diagnostic examinations. Staging helps the doctors determine the type of treatment option that is most suitable as well as the prognosis. There are different stages for different cancer types;
TNM Staging System
Results from diagnostic tests and scans are used to come up with the following;
- T (Tumor). Where has it formed, how large is it?
- N (Node). Has the lymph nodes been affected? Where and how many?
- M (Metastasis). Has the disease metastasized to other body parts, where and to what extent?
IRS Clinical Group
This is based on whether or not the tumor can be surgically removed. This was designed by the Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Studies (IRS) using the following stages and guidelines;
- Group I. A tumor that can be surgically removed completely
- Group II. A tumor that can be removed surgically but cancer cells remain at the margin or on the regional lymph nodes.
- Group III. A local tumor. Has not spread outside where it started but cannot be removed surgically
- Group IV. Distant metastases. A cancer that has spread through blood or lymph nodes to other body parts.
Treatment of Rhabdomyosarcoma
Treatment options for rhabdomyosarcoma are guided by where the disease begins and cell characteristics involved. These options included chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.
Generally, cancer is not common with children. This follows that it is difficult for doctors to plan interventions until they are very sure of what has been most suitable in other children. In this case, above 60 percent of children suffering from cancer are put in a clinical trial. The standard care is the most suitable form of treatment known. National Institute of Cancer supports Children’s Oncology Group (COG) that is dedicated to conducting national clinical trials available for children suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma.
Treatment of rhabdomyosarcoma is multidisciplinary in approach and involves additional support services for children and their parents. These are for instance dieticians, child life specialists, occupational and physical therapists, counselors and social workers.
Multidisciplinary therapy palnning is needed for patients suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma. This is the use of combinations of radiation, chemotherapy and or surgery.
- This is the surgical removal of tumor and adjacent healthy tissues in an operation. This leaves a negative margin in the healthy tissue.
- Even children that undergo surgery still need chemotherapy. If the rhabdomyosarcoma tumor cannot be removed surgically (inoperable or unresectable), the only treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation. These methods are applied to kill the cancer cells. Biopsy is done to determine the type of tumor.
- Radiation therapy. This is the use of high energy x-rays to kill the cancer cells. External-beam is the most commonly used radiation treatment. When radiation is done using implants, it is referred to as internal radiation or brachytherapy. A radiation treatment plan consists of a specific number of therapies over a given period of time.
A patient may suffer from radiation side effects that include fatigue, stomach upsets, loose bowel movements and mild skin reactions.
Risks Associated with Rhabdomyosarcoma
Researchers and doctors are not aware of what causes cancer in children. In many instances of rhabdomyosarcoma, there are no clear risks. However, it has been demonstrated that children with the below infrequent and hereditary conditions have a rather higher risk of developing this soft tissue cancer;
- Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
- Cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome
- Costello syndrome
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
Some cases of rhabdomyosarcoma are as a result of congenital disorders.
Who Can Go for Rhabdomyosarcoma
Like all other types of cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma needs to be diagnosed as early as possible so that it can respond well to treatments. Unlike other types of cancers, this condition usually affect children and therefore harder to detect. Those who can go for rhabdomyosarcoma treatment, consultation or second opinion include children manifesting signs and symptoms of the disease.
Those parents with a family history of hereditary diseases should be sure to have their children well examined at birth.