About Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) in children

Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common form of soft tissue cancer in children. It can affect the head, neck, bladder, vagina, arms, legs, trunk or just about any body part. Most rhabdomyosarcoma cases are diagnosed before the age of 10, are fast growing and can spread to other parts of the body. 

Symptoms and diagnosis

Rhabdomyosarcoma signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma might include:

  • A lump or swelling that does not go away

  • Bleeding in the nose, vagina or rectum

  • Constipation

  • Bulging eyes

  • Headaches

How rhabdomyosarcoma is diagnosed

If rhabdomyosarcoma is suspected, your child's medical history will be taken and a full physical exam will be performed. The following tests will also be scheduled:


Rhabdomyosarcoma treatment

There are many treatments available for soft tissue tumors like rhabdomyosarcoma. Some children will need a combination of the therapies below: 

  • Chemotherapy

  • Surgery. If the tumor is in an area that can be reached easily, surgery will be done to remove as much of the tumor as possible. 

  • Radiation therapy using high energy X-rays to shrink the tumor and prevent them from growing.

Fighting pediatric cancer and blood disorders

UW Health Kids | Carbone Cancer Care specialists offer the most advanced treatment options. Our pediatric cancer and blood disorder experts are national research leaders. We test new therapies and continue to work on therapies for pediatric cancer and blood disorders. For many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options.

Search our clinical trials

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UW Health Kids
Our pediatric experts have served the special needs of children for more than 100 years. We focus on each child’s unique needs and offer social and emotional support to help you and your child face even the most complex condition. Our long history includes the creation of medical advances that save lives around the world. Together, we get your child back to health and enjoying being a kid.

Meet our team

An experienced team providing your child with the care they deserve

Your child’s care is our top priority and we understand the unique needs they have.

Your child’s team could include:

  • Oncologists (cancer doctors)

  • Hematologists (blood disease doctors)

  • Urologists

  • Ophthalmologists

  • Nurse practitioners

  • Child life specialists

  • Pain management specialists

  • Physical, occupational and speech therapists

  • Radiologists and radiation technologists

  • Social workers

  • Surgeons

UW Health Kids | Carbone Cancer Care specialists are dedicated to diagnosing and treating all infants, children and adolescents with cancer, including rhabdomyosarcoma.

Our pediatric oncologists are part of the UW Carbone Cancer Center, which is a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. This designation means that the doctors taking care of your child are experts in cancer treatment, research and education. 


Care for your child

Receiving care from the UW Health Kids | Carbone Cancer Center hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplant program at American Family Children’s Hospital means you have access to the knowledge and skills of many medical and support specialists for your child’s complex health diagnosis like cancer.

Patient and support services

You’re never alone

When your child needs hospitalization, they will be admitted to American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, Wis.

Child life specialists help your child and family cope with any fears and anxieties. The American Family Children's Hospital patient and family visitor guide features information about:

  • Hero beads

  • Hospital school

  • Positive Image Center

  • Restoring Hope Transplant House (for blood and bone marrow transplant)

  • Spiritual care services

  • Tyler's Place (sibling child care)

Additional resources

Pediatric cancer services

With our expertise comes compassion. Our team considers you and your child part of our family. We will be by your side every step of the way. From diagnosis through treatment and into adulthood, we will care for your child as if they are our own.

Learn more