Most people with rhabdomyosarcoma first notice a lump on their body and seek a medical opinion. Diagnosing rhabdomyosarcoma usually starts with a medical history review and exam by your doctor. Next, your doctor may request imaging tests. At Mayo Clinic, all of your diagnostic testing can be completed in a few days rather than in several weeks.
Mayo Clinic has an international reputation for top-quality imaging and rapid test results. To diagnose rhabdomyosarcoma, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following scans to evaluate the extent of the tumor and determine if it has spread to lymph nodes, lungs or other parts of your body. In tests that involve radiation, specialists carefully monitor doses to avoid the risk of radiation overexposure.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. MRI uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of your muscles.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses a sophisticated X-ray machine linked to a computer to produce detailed, two-dimensional images.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET scans can help reveal the location of tumor cells in your body using a radioactive substance that is injected into a vein.
- Bone scan. This scan detects cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the bone from a tumor that appears in a different organ.
- Blood test. A blood test can determine whether you have high levels of certain proteins in your blood, indicating the presence of rhabdomyosarcoma.
- Biopsy of the tumor. To diagnose rhabdomyosarcoma, your doctor must remove a small sample of the tumor (by surgery or using a needle) for examination by a pathologist. Mayo Clinic's pathologists are internationally known for their expertise.
- Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. To determine whether rhabdomyosarcoma has spread to your bone marrow, your doctor may use a thin, hollow needle to remove a small amount of liquid bone marrow (a procedure called aspiration) for evaluation by a pathologist. Then your doctor will likely remove a small sample of bone and marrow for analysis.