Guide To The Major Symptoms Of Rhabdomyosarcoma

October 29, 2023

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a form of cancerous growth that originates in the cells that make up the skeletal muscles. Smooth muscles are in charge of activities considered involuntary, where skeletal muscles are responsible for the voluntary activities in the body. Skeletal cells are distributed all around an individual's body, allowing rhabdomyosarcoma to form in just about any part. Rhabdomyosarcoma rarely develops in adults and more commonly occurs in children younger than five years old.

The causes of rhabdomyosarcoma in most individuals are unclear, but genetic factors play a role in a small portion of patients. A rhabdomyosarcoma diagnosis is made with the help of urine tests, blood tests, x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, ultrasound, PET scan, bone scan, tumor biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, and lumbar puncture. Treatment for most cases of rhabdomyosarcoma includes surgical excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Swelling In The Affected Area

Individuals who develop rhabdomyosarcoma may experience swelling in the affected area. Rhabdomyosarcoma development is most prevalent in areas of the body that include the neck, parameningeal sites, eyelid, orbit, testicular region, urinary bladder, female genitourinary tract, prostate, chest wall, and retroperitoneum. When a patient's rhabdomyosarcoma originates in their chest, arm, groin, neck, or back, the first symptom that becomes apparent may be localized swelling around the tumor. This swelling may not cause the patient any pain, or it may be very painful and cause redness depending on where it is located.

If an individual develops rhabdomyosarcoma around their eye, the swelling produced by the tumor may cause their eye to bulge in an outward direction. Swelling around the eye can also result in the appearance of being cross-eyed and or adverse effects on vision. Many patients do not seek medical care based on this symptom because it can be caused by several different conditions or an injury.

Issues With Bowel Movements

An individual affected by rhabdomyosarcoma in certain tissues located in and around the gastrointestinal tract may experience issues with bowel movements. The most common locations for rhabdomyosarcoma that produce symptoms related to bowel movements are on or around the bladder, testicles, prostate, vagina, and intestinal tract. Rhabdomyosarcoma that grows large and is in a location on a patient's bladder or any sexual pelvic organs may cause the bowel to become obstructed. A patient who develops a small rhabdomyosarcoma within their intestinal tract can also experience a bowel obstruction.

Symptoms indicative of intestinal obstruction related to rhabdomyosarcoma include nausea, vomiting, constipation, crampy abdominal pain, appetite loss, and an inability to pass gas. Symptoms from rhabdomyosarcoma that develops in the abdomen or pelvis may also be very subtle and include changes in bowel movement frequency and stool consistency.

Blood In The Urine

Blood in the urine (hematuria) may appear in some rhabdomyosarcoma patients. Urine is produced by the kidneys, and travels from tubes called the ureters to the bladder. Once in the bladder, the urine is stored until the individual is ready to expel it. Because the bladder is made up of muscular tissues, rhabdomyosarcoma can develop in it. When rhabdomyosarcoma infiltrates the tissues of the bladder wall, the small blood vessels that supply the muscle tissues with blood can leak or burst from becoming damaged. This mechanism allows blood to leak into the interior of the organ where the urine is being stored.

Another way rhabdomyosarcoma can cause hematuria is when a patient's tumor grows large enough to stop the bladder from being able to empty properly. When the bladder does not empty urine completely, the stagnated urine is at a higher risk of hosting an infection. Irritation of the tissues that line the interior of the bladder caused by a bladder infection due to the mechanical abnormalities precipitated from the tumor can cause blood to leak into the urine.

Nose, Throat, And Ear Bleeding

An individual who experiences nose, throat, or ear bleeding may have developed rhabdomyosarcoma in the affected area. The skin that makes up the inner lining of the nasal cavity is very sensitive and contains numerous small blood vessels close to its surface. Major disruptions in the structure of this mucous membrane cause damage to these vessels and results in a nosebleed. The infiltration of cancerous cells from a patient's rhabdomyosarcoma can easily produce a nosebleed.

Bleeding from the throat can be a symptom that occurs as the result of bleeding in the nose that drains into the throat, or it can be the result of rhabdomyosarcoma invading into the muscular tissues of the patient's esophagus and causing damage to blood vessels. The ear canal is also lined with a high concentration of small blood vessels that can burst or leak when they become damaged. Cancerous cells from a rhabdomyosarcoma can invade the ear canal and produce bloody ear discharge.

Lump In The Affected Area

When an individual has rhabdomyosarcoma, a common symptom is the development of an abnormal lump in the affected area. An abnormal lump most often manifests in patients affected by rhabdomyosarcoma on one of their limbs. The lump of rhabdomyosarcoma in a patient typically does not cause them to experience pain and feels hard to the touch. Another part of the body that frequently exhibits lumps with rhabdomyosarcoma is the testicles and pelvis. The lump produced in rhabdomyosarcoma does not shrink or reduce in size without treatment and may grow to a large size rather quickly.

Rhabdomyosarcomas feel similar to swollen lymph nodes but can be distinguished by the length of time they persist. A lump closer to an individual's skin caused by rhabdomyosarcoma is easier to detect and makes it easier to perform a tissue biopsy on the tumor. Rhabdomyosarcoma within close proximity to a patient's skin also provides a better opportunity for surgical excision than a tumor located deeper in the body tissues.

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