Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a type of soft tissue cancer that affects the tendons, cartilage, muscles, and bones. Although it can also affect adults, it is commonly seen in children who have inherited diseases such as neurofibromatosis type 1, pleuropulmonary blastoma, and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. Aside from a lump that keeps getting bigger as the child ages, its other symptoms include bulging of the eye, blood in the urine, and bleeding in rectum, throat, or nose.
The treatment and prognosis for patients with RMS are largely dependent on the stage of cancer and how much of it can be removed with surgery. Children with this condition must be managed in a dedicated cancer centre with expertise and experience in the treatment of childhood cancers. Such centres can be found in Southeast Asia’s medical tourism hubs, namely Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Such centres (an example is KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s children cancer centre in Singapore) provide a team approach and are staffed by orthopaedic surgeons with experience in treating RMS, paediatric and radiation oncologists, pathologists, and physiatrists. These centres are fully equipped with cutting-edge diagnostic technologies and perform breakthrough laboratory tests to accurately diagnose the condition. These computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), bone scan, and lumbar puncture biopsy as well as light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, immunocytochemistry, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, and cytogenetic analysis.
As for the treatment, JCI-accredited hospitals in Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia offer multi-modal cancer treatments depending on the tumour’s location and stage of cancer. Such treatments include surgical tumour removal, stereotactic radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
The quality of care provided to RMS patients in Southeast Asia is comparable to developed countries such as the United States and United Kingdom. However, there’s a huge difference in medical fees as comprehensive cancer care in the region costs only about 20-50% of what is currently being charged in Western countries.