Rhabdomyosarcoma: Cancer That Deceives

Sunday, April 01, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 2 Comments

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer, occurring mostly in kids, that mimics many conditions. Parents mistake it as an ear infection, sore throat, or a common nosebleed. But it is deadly – and if you are a parent, it is your responsibility to recognize it. Learn about rhabdomyosarcoma, its signs and symptoms, and the available treatment options for this debilitating disease.

Rhabdomyosarcoma, Defined

RhabdomyosarcomaBy definition, rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of tumor that occurs in soft tissues. Its origin is believed to involve muscle cells. “It is a type of cancer, which means it is a malignant tumor that has the potential of spreading to other areas of the body, including the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and lungs,” explained Dr. Amy Dy, the head of the University of the Philippines’ Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Department.

Rhabdomyosarcoma is a cancer that can start anywhere, but it occurs most frequently in the head and neck. It also occurs in the genitourinary system and in all extremities.

Rhabdomyosarcoma: Risk Factors

Risk factors for rhabdomyosarcoma include both genetic and environmental factors. (SOURCE) In the United States, less than ten children out of one million suffer from rhabdomyosarcoma. It is the most common soft tissue tumor in children, especially in two age brackets: from 2 to 6 years of age, and again at 15 to 19 years old.

Read on to find out how marijuana use, even during your single life, can predispose your future kids to rhabdomyosarcoma.

  • Those with gene abnormalities are predisposed to rhabdomyosarcoma. Those with a p53 mutation, are especially at risk. The p53 gene is a gene that suppresses cancer growth; if it mutates, then it loses that ability.
  • Radiation exposure increases the risk for rhabdomyosarcoma. Surviving a nuclear fallout sure is something to be thankful for, but it may also mean suffering from many number of cancers, including rhabdomyosarcoma. If your mother had an x-ray when she was pregnant with you, it also ups your risk.
  • Parents’ marijuana use will predispose their future child to rhabdomyosarcoma, even before that child is conceived. If your father smoked a joint back in his teens before he even met your mother, you would still have been at greater risk for developing rhabdomyosarcoma than other kids whose parents never smoked pot.

Rhabdomyosarcoma can definitely mimic more benign conditions that don’t get medical attention soon enough. But if you are a parent, it is your responsibility to educate yourself about the many signs and symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma and why these symptoms mimic other benign conditions. Rhabdomyosarcoma, when diagnosed early, leads to better treatment outcomes. Knowing about the signs and symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma will alert you to suspicious manifestations. Continue reading this article and learn about the signs and symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!


  1. oh gosh. This is alarming. Future parents really have to be careful with what they intake. Drugs not only puts yourself at risk, but your future child as well. :(

  2. It's just so surprising that any (illegal) drug you took (or smoked) years ago can come back to haunt you, but in a way that will never seem fair.

    Imagine smoking pot in your younger years, only to find out a decade after that your child has cancer - more specifically rhabdomyosarcoma - just because you used to smoke marijuana. Whew!