Health A-Z

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What Is It?

Sarcomas are a type of cancer that develops from the fleshy parts of the body. Cancers from the soft tissues are sarcomas. (This type of cancer is different from a carcinoma, which develops in glandular tissue, for example, lung cancer, colon cancer pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer.) Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer that forms in the skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles attach to bones. They help the body move. Most rhabdomyosarcomas occur in children and teenagers.

Rhabdomyosarcoma can occur anywhere in the body. It typically appears in the arms, legs, head and neck, bladder, reproductive organs, chest, and abdomen. Rhabdomyosarcoma can spread to other organs.

There are two main types of rhabdomyosarcoma:

  • Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma usually affects children under age 6.

  • Alveolarrhabdomyosarcoma usually affects older children or teenagers. It tends to be more aggressive than embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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