About Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS)

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 ten, are fast growing and can spread to other parts of the body. 

Symptoms and diagnosis

Rhabdomyosarcoma signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma may include:

  • A lump or swelling that does not go away

  • Bleeding in the nose, vagina or rectum

  • Constipation

  • Bulging eyes

  • Headaches

How is rhabdomyosarcoma 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

At UW Health, we 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

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’s pediatric oncologists 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. 

Pediatric hematology and oncology
Radiation oncology
Pediatric ophthalmology

We care for your child as if they are our own

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


Care for your child

Receiving care from the pediatric 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.

  • American Family Children's Hospital - Pediatric Hematology and Oncology
    • 1675 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-6420
    • Closed now
      View hours, services and more
  • American Family Children's Hospital - Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant
    • 1675 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-6420
    • Closed now
      View hours, services and more

Patient and support services

You’re never alone

There are services available at both American Family Children’s Hospital and in the community to help patients and their families through every step of their journey.

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

  • Health psychology

  • Hero beads

  • Hospital school

  • Positive Image Center

  • Spiritual care services

  • Tyler's Place (sibling child care)

Additional resources