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Muscle and other soft tissue tumors

Every year, approximately 25 children in the Netherlands are diagnosed with a soft tissue tumor (sarcoma). It is usually a rhabdomyosarcoma (muscle tumor), but some children have a different sarcoma. Most of the children are not yet 10 years old. Sarcomas are more common in boys than in girls.

The brochure entitled Muscle and other soft tissue tumors contains comprehensive information on this disease. The most important information can be found on our website.

Causes

Very little is known about what causes soft tissue tumors. Probably something has been damaged in the DNA during a cell division in the nucleus of the cell or a piece of chromosome is missing. Sometimes the cell is damaged in the womb, sometimes after birth. It is still not completely clear what causes this error and why a cell suddenly starts dividing uncontrollably. Cell division is an extremely complicated process.

The development of a soft tissue tumor cannot be prevented. Still, you might feel to blame. It is good to discuss your concerns with your child's doctor.

Symptoms

The tumor causes a painless lump or swelling that can eventually cause complaints. Children with a facial tumor may have a swollen face, a black or protruding eye, a stuffy nose. They can also suffer from deafness, headaches, crossed eyes, nausea and vomiting. A tumor in the lower abdomen can cause constipation, urinary problems, swollen scrotum, vaginal bleeding or a swollen stomach. A tumor in the arms, legs or trunk causes swelling under the skin or in muscles and tendons.

How are muscle and other soft tissue tumors diagnosed?

X-rays, ultrasounds and various types of scans are performed. Also, a piece of tumor is removed under anesthesia and then examined under a microscope.

Treatment

Rhabdomyosarcomas are usually first treated with chemotherapy followed by surgery. This is sometimes followed by radiotherapy and usually another round of chemotherapy. If your child has a different type of sarcoma, the treatment consists of surgery and/or radiotherapy. This is because these types of soft tissue tumors are less sensitive to chemotherapy.

Chance of recovery

The chance of recovery for children with a rhabdomyosarcoma depends mainly on the location and type of tumor. For example, the eye socket and genitals are 'more favorable' locations than the nose, throat, prostate and bladder, and embryonic rhabdomyosarcomas are less aggressive than alveolar sarcomas (these two can only be distinguished from each other under a microscope). As regards the other types of soft tissue tumors, their size and location are especially important and also whether the tumor can be removed properly.

Approximately 70-90% of children with a 'relatively favorable tumor' and 50-70% of the other group are cured. The disease is more extensive if there are any metastases; this makes treatment significantly more difficult. Because every situation and every child is unique, it is difficult to make predictions. Don't be influenced too much by statistics; it's your child and not the numbers that counts.

Questions?

Children and teenagers with a soft tissue tumor are treated in the solid tumors department.