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Symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma

The symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma may vary depending on the location of the tumour. Rhabdomyosarcoma can develop in any muscle in the body. The most common sites of rhabdomyosarcoma are:

The most common sign of rhabdomyosarcoma is a mass or swelling that doesn’t go away and gets bigger over time. It may or may not be painful. Other signs and symptoms of rhabdomyosarcoma include:

  • a bulging eye
  • headaches
  • difficulty urinating or having bowel movements
  • blood in the urine
  • bleeding from the nose, throat, vagina or rectum

Other health conditions can also cause the same symptoms as rhabdomyosarcoma.

Symptoms by location

Rhabdomyosarcoma can develop at any site and can cause different signs and symptoms depending on where the tumour develops. Some common signs and symptoms by location are:

Rhabdomyosarcoma around the eye or in the eyelid can cause:

  • a bulging eye
  • a drooping eyelid (called ptosis)
  • crossed eyes
  • a swollen eyelid
  • redness or infection around the eye

Rhabdomyosarcoma in the head and neck can cause:

  • painless lump or swelling
  • one side of the face to look different from the other (called facial asymmetry)
  • blurred vision
  • swollen face
  • stuffy nose
  • difficulty breathing
  • discharge or bleeding from the nose, throat or ear
  • pain in the face
  • headaches
  • earaches
  • nerve paralysis (called palsy) in the face
  • hearing loss

Rhabdomyosarcoma in the arms or legs can cause a lump or swelling that can be tender or painful.

Rhabdomyosarcoma in the abdomen or pelvis can cause:

  • an enlarged abdomen
  • a lump in the abdomen
  • pain in the abdomen
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • bleeding from the rectum

Rhabdomyosarcoma in the bladder or prostate can cause:

  • blood in the urine
  • difficulty urinating
  • pain when urinating
  • constipation

Rhabdomyosarcoma around the testicles can cause painless enlargement of the scrotum.

Rhabdomyosarcoma in the vagina or uterus can cause a lump or growth and discharge or bleeding from the vagina.

Rhabdomyosarcoma in the bile ducts can cause yellowing of the eyes or skin (called jaundice).


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