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Can Rhabdomyosarcoma Be Found Early?

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is not common, and at this time there are no widely recommended screening tests for these cancers. (Screening is testing for a disease such as cancer in people who don’t have any symptoms.)

Still, RMS often causes symptoms that allow it to be found before it has spread to other parts of the body. Most symptoms that might point to RMS can also have other causes, and most of these are not serious. But it's important to have them checked by a doctor. This includes any pain, swelling, or lumps that grow quickly or don’t go away after a week or so.

About 4 out of 5 of these cancers is found before the cancer has clearly spread to another part of the body. But even when this happens, very small tumors (which cannot be seen, felt, or detected by imaging tests) could already have spread to other parts of the body. This is why both surgery and other treatments are typically needed for RMS.

For people with certain inherited conditions linked to RMS

Families known to carry inherited conditions that raise the risk of RMS (listed in Risk Factors for Rhabdomyosarcoma) or that have several family members with cancer (particularly childhood cancers) should talk with their doctors about the possible need for more frequent checkups. It's not common for RMS to run in families, but close attention to possible early signs of cancer might help find it early, when treatment is most likely to be successful.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Okcu MF, Hicks J. Rhabdomyosarcoma in childhood and adolescence: Clinical presentation, diagnostic evaluation, and staging. UpToDate. Accessed at on May 24, 2018.

Wexler LH, Skapek SX, Helman LJ. Chapter 31: Rhabdomyosarcoma. In: Pizzo PA, Poplack DG, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016.

Last Revised: July 16, 2018

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