Rhabdomyosarcoma or Soft Tissue Sarcoma: A General Overview
A sarcoma is a form of cancer that can develop in the soft tissues or bones. Some of these soft tissues include the joints lining, the skin’s lower layers (not the external layer), fibrous tissue, fat, muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. Several different growths are abnormal and may also develop in the soft tissues. If it is identified to be a sarcoma, then it is considered cancer or a malignant tumor. Being malignant indicates that portions of the tumor may be broken off and start spreading to tissues surrounding the affected areas.
Soft tissue sarcomas are not that common, especially when comparing to carcinomas, another form of a malignant tumor. Sarcomas can be deadly, particularly when the tumor has spread to other tissues, or if it has become too large. Sarcomas of the soft tissues are commonly found in and around the legs or the arms, but they can also be located in the back of the abdominal cavity, neck, head, internal organs, and trunk.
There are different forms of carcinomas of the soft tissue. These carcinomas are commonly identified based on the soft tissue where it develops:
- Liposarcomas are tumors that are malignant that develops in fat
- Leiomyosarcoma are sarcomas that are cancerous and develop in internal organs or smooth muscles
- Rhabdomyosarcoma, on the other hand, are tumors that are malignant that can develop in the muscles of the skeletal system. Skeletal muscles can be found in different portions of the body such as the legs and the arms. This form of muscle can help in movement and motion.
- GISTs or Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors are tumors that are malignant that start in the digestive tract o GI (gastrointestinal tract).
Rhabdomyosarcoma is the usual form of sarcoma in adolescents and children. Other rare sarcomas of the soft tissues include:
- Spindle cell tumors
- Pleomorphic undifferentiated sarcomas
- Clear cell sarcomas
- Epithelioid sarcomas
- Alveolar soft part sarcomas
- Malignant mesenchymal
- Kaposi sarcomas
- Synovial sarcomas
- Neurogenic sarcomas
- Malignant schwannoma
Soft Tissue Sarcoma: What are the symptoms?
During its initial stages, a sarcoma that is soft tissue may not present with any form of symptoms. A mass or a lump that is painless and found underneath the skin of the leg or arm may be the first symptoms of sarcoma of the soft tissue. If this kind of sarcoma starts developing in the stomach, then it can go undetected until it becomes too big and starts pushing on other organs.
Another symptom that individuals may experience is the blockage of the intestines. It can happen if the tumor develops in the stomach and starts to push the intestines, causing pain and affects its normal function. Another symptom is a tarry or black stool appearance, blood in stool and vomit.
Soft Tissue Sarcomas: Possible Causes
While soft tissue sarcoma can’t be easily identified, one exception to this rule is the sarcoma known as Kaposi. It is a form of cancer of the lymph vessels or the lining of the blood. This form of cancer can lead to brown lesions or purple and is the result of an infection caused by the HHV-8 or Human Herpes Virus. If you have a weak immune system, you are more likely at risk.
Risk Factors for the Development of Soft Tissue Sarcoma
Below are some of the risk factors for the development of sarcoma of the soft tissues:
1. Risk Factors based on Genes. Some DNA mutations or those inherited in the genes along with certain defects can make people more at risk when developing sarcoma of the soft tissue. Some of these genetic factors include:
- Basal cell nevus syndrome
- Inherited retinoblastoma
- Li- Fraumeni
- Gardner’s Syndrom
- Neurofibromatosis which can result in tumors of the nerve sheath
- Tuberous Sclerosis
- Werner’s Sclerosis
2. Exposure to Toxins. Being exposed to toxins such as herbicides, arsenic, vinyl chloride, and dioxin all contain increased amounts of phenoxy acetic acid which can lead to an increased risk of developing sarcomas of the soft tissues.
3. Exposure to radiation. Exposure to radiation such as therapy using radiation may increase the risk of developing sarcoma. Therapy using radiation can address and be used as a treatment for other forms of cancer such as lymphomas, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. However, this form of therapy can elevate the possible risk of other cancers to be developed.
Treatments for Sarcoma
Some of the possible treatments for sarcoma include surgery for treatment during the early stages of the said cancer, chemotherapy which uses drugs that are toxic to destroy sarcoma cells, and radiation therapy which entails the use of particles or beams to damage the cancer cells DNA.