Musculoskeletal Cancers

Musculoskeletal Cancers

Cancers of the musculoskeletal system affects our bodys muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage. For unknown reasons, cells that help us form our muscles, bones and connective tissues become damaged, leading to several cancers of this system, which helps us move our bodies. Many of these diseases are more common in children than adults. Rhabdomyosarcoma (pronounced RAB-doh-MY-oh-sar-KOH-muh) causes cancerous tumors to develop in the head, neck, bladder and reproductive organs. The Ewing Family of Tumors (EFTs) cause rare cancers of the bone and soft tissues found in our arms, legs, head, neck and trunk. The most common type of bone cancer, osteosarcoma weakens the connective tissues and minerals that give our bones strength. Most musculoskeletal cancers are rare but can be difficult to treat. Early detection is key to improving your outcome. See your doctor if you or your child have a lump that grows or does not disappear, find blood in your urine or have bone pain.

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    Yondelis (trabectedin) is a drug for the treatment of certain soft-tissue sarcomas (tumors that begin in soft tissues like muscle and fat) that cannot be removed surgically. Yondelis is effective against liposarcoma and leiomyosarcoma. It is adminstered through an IV once every three weeks, following a dose of the corticosteroid dexamethasone. Yondelis has potential dangerous effects, including neutropenic sepsis, a potentially fatal loss of white blood cells; liver toxicity; rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle tissue); danger to the heart; and danger to the fetus in pregnant women. Patients are closely monitored during treatment for signs of these conditions. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, poor appetite, dyspnea, tiredness, breathing problems, and headache. Breastfeeding is not recommended during treatment. Safety has not been established in pediatric or elderly patients. 
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    Unfortunately, there are no proven ways to prevent rhabdomyosarcoma. Because the only known risk factors are genetic, nothing can be done to prevent them. Luckily, most cases of rhabdomyosarcoma can be treated.

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    If rhabdomyosarcoma develops in a limb, surgery is usually the first treatment used. Fortunately, doctors are often able to remove the cancer without amputating the whole limb. In these procedures, called limb-sparing surgery, the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue is removed. Then, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is used to kill any remaining cancer cells. Amputation is used usually only as a last resort when the cancer has spread into the muscle or bone of that limb and it would be impossible to get rid of all the cancer with another procedure. Even in those cases, though, surgery may be avoided in favor of another type of treatment.

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    Rhabdomyosarcoma can spread to other parts of the body in later stages of the disease. Tumors can form almost anywhere in the body and, if they are left untreated, they continue to grow. Eventually, cells can break off from the tumor and spread to other parts of the body. This process is called metastasis. Sometimes, the cancer only spreads to nearby tissue. In other cases, rhabdomyosarcoma may metastasize to distant parts of the body and cause serious problems. Because rhabdomyosarcoma is more likely to spread if it is left untreated, it is important to talk to your doctor right away if you notice that your child has any symptoms.

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    Yes. Bone cancer sometimes metastasizes, particularly to the lungs, or can recur (come back), either at the same location or in other bones in the body. People who have had bone cancer should see their doctor regularly and should report any unusual symptoms right away. Follow-up varies for different types and stages of bone cancer. Generally, patients are checked frequently by their doctor and have regular blood tests and x-rays. People who have had bone cancer, particularly children and adolescents, have an increased likelihood of developing another type of cancer, such as leukemia, later in life. Regular follow-up care ensures that changes in health are discussed and that problems are treated as soon as possible.

    This answer is based on source information from National Cancer Institute.

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    Although bone cancer does not have a clearly defined cause, researchers have identified several factors that increase the likelihood of developing these tumors. Osteosarcoma occurs more frequently in people who have had high-dose external radiation therapy or treatment with certain anticancer drugs; children seem to be particularly susceptible. A small number of bone cancers are due to heredity. For example, children who have had hereditary retinoblastoma (an uncommon cancer of the eye) are at a higher risk of developing osteosarcoma, particularly if they are treated with radiation. Additionally, people who have hereditary defects of bones and people with metal implants, which doctors sometimes use to repair fractures, are more likely to develop osteosarcoma.

    Ewing sarcoma is not strongly associated with any heredity cancer syndromes, congenital childhood diseases, or previous radiation exposure.

    This answer is based on source information from National Cancer Institute.

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    Rhabdomyosarcoma starts in the cells of the body's skeletal muscles. These are the muscles that we can control, such as those in our limbs, necks, and faces. When certain DNA mutations occur, it causes an overproduction of cells that build up and form a tumor in the skeletal muscles. Different types of rhabdomyosarcoma develop in different places, but it most commonly affects the head, neck, arms, legs, abdomen, genitals, and urinary organs. These tumors usually cause a lump that grows and may become painful, but, depending on what area is affected, rhabdomyosarcoma can affect the body in a variety of ways, including bleeding from the affected area. If tumors are not treated, they continue to grow and may create other complications throughout the body.

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    Symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma may begin with a growing mass or lump that may be painful. Depending on where the tumor develops, rhabdomyosarcoma may cause several other symptoms. If it occurs in the head or face, symptoms may include headache and bulging or swelling around the eye area. If it affects the organs in the urinary tract, it may cause bloody urine and pain or problems urinating. Children who develop rhabdomyosarcoma in other areas may have bleeding in those affected areas, such as the nose, rectum, or vagina. Since the symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma vary so much and can seem like those of other conditions, it is important to talk to a doctor if you notice that your child has any of these symptoms.

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    Caring for a child with rhabdomyosarcoma involves helping them experience as normal a childhood as possible. Treatment can be physically draining for your child, so it is important to care for their overall health by providing a nutritious diet and making sure they get enough rest. Encourage them to be as active as possible without putting too much strain on themselves. Try to have your child attend school as much as possible and participate in normal activities if they are well enough. Remember that frequent medical check-ups are extremely important to make sure the cancer has not come back or spread, so maintain a good relationship with your child's team of doctors. It is also important to take care of yourself, because you need to have the physical and emotional strength to support your child.

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    If you notice that your child has any symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma, you should talk to your doctor. Usually, the most noticeable symptom is a growing lump anywhere on the body, especially arms, legs, face, and the abdomen area. In some cases, you might notice that your child has a headache or has bloody urine and difficulty urinating or having bowel movements. These symptoms may be caused by another condition, but if they worry you, it is important to talk to your child's doctor.