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In this lesson, we’ll take a look at three different types of cancers.

One affects the bones and two affect different types of muscles in your body. We’ll also go over how they may be diagnosed and treated.

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A Lifetime of Studying

If you are a person who enjoys studying, and I mean really studying a lot, then I want to allow myself the privilege of suggesting that you become a histopathologist. These are very well trained individuals who often undergo a good decade of studies past high school. Histopathologists look at tissue samples under a microscope in order to diagnose not just a disease process, but in the case of cancer, its aggressiveness and possible course of progression all depending on the type of cancer it is, its location, size, and a plethora of other factors.Oh, and their classification systems seem to change on a whim, meaning you’ll be studying for the rest of your life! However, without these experts, it would be hard to figure out the different types of cancer that may affect muscles in our body, only a few of which can be covered in this lesson.

The Main Muscles in Our Body

Now, I said the word muscle not long ago. Believe it or not, there are actually three very distinct types of muscles in your body. You have:

  • Skeletal muscles, such as your biceps, which are under voluntary control.
  • Smooth muscles, such as those in your intestines, which are under involuntary nervous system control.
  • Cardiac muscle, which is the involuntarily controlled muscle of your heart.

Each one of them can be affected by cancer, which is a malignant tumor.

Rhabdomyosarcoma

When it comes down to skeletal muscle, one well-known cancer is known as a rhabdomyosarcoma.

This is a malignant tumor of skeletal muscle. This cancer usually occurs in places like the head, neck, arms, and legs. It is the most common soft tissue tumor in children, but thankfully, this tumor is very rare.The only way to definitely diagnose this tumor is to send a piece of tissue to a histopathologist. This histopathologist will look under a microscope and be able to classify it as one of several different types of rhabdomyosarcomas. Each different type will carry a different prognosis.Once a diagnosis has been established, it will be up to the doctors to decide which course of treatment to take.

The three main options are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Surgery is an option depending on the location of the tumor and the spread of the cancer. In some places, the surgery may be way too risky and other options may need to be looked into.

We may have to use radiation therapy in those areas instead, in order to zap the cancer cells with radiation to kill them off.

Leiomyosarcoma

Regardless of the choice of treatment, skeletal muscles are not alone in their predisposition to cancer. A tumor of smooth muscle, known as a leiomyosarcoma, is a rare form of cancer that may occur as well. These tumors can be found virtually anywhere in the body, such as the stomach and intestines, uterus, blood vessels, and beyond.Once again, a sample of this tumor can be sent to a histopathologist, who will be able to grade the tumor to figure out how aggressive it is.

One common form of grading scale ranges from one to four, with one being the least aggressive form of cancer. The higher the grade on the scale, the poorer the prognosis is for the patient in general.Once the histopathologist confirms the diagnosis of a leiomyosarcoma, the same general options exist for treatment as before, with surgical excision being the preferred treatment option in this particular case. If the cancer has spread far and wide, however, surgery won’t be enough, and we’ll have to use chemotherapy, or certain drugs to kill the tumor cells all over the body, in order to try and kill this cancer instead.

Osteosarcoma

With that in mind, I’d like to leave the muscle tumors alone for now. While the heart may suffer from cancer, it’s quite rare, and I’d rather focus a bit on a more well-known type of cancer called an osteosarcoma, which is the most common type of bone cancer in children. However, children aren’t the only ones affected.

In fact, older adults can be affected as well.Typically, you must remember that this cancer will affect the long bones in your body, such as your femur, humerus, or tibia. That is not to say that it can’t affect other bones in the body; it’s just not as likely. In any case, because of its destructive effects on a person’s bones, individuals suffer from pain, the inability to move, and even fractures as a result of the osteosarcoma.Those who are diagnosed with an osteosarcoma will most likely undergo surgery combined with chemotherapy.

In rare cases, the entire affected limb will have to be removed to try and save a person’s life.

Lesson Summary

Well, this has been quite a depressing lesson. Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with any cancer, including the ones we went over in this lesson.

One of these was a rhabdomyosarcoma; this is a malignant tumor of skeletal muscle. Another one we mentioned was a tumor of smooth muscle known as a leiomyosarcoma, and we finally went over an osteosarcoma, which is the most common type of bone cancer in children. As a general rule, a combination of local surgical removal of the tumor, chemotherapy to help remove cancer cells all over the body, and radiation therapy, where the tumor cells are zapped with radiation at a local area, can be used to treat most kinds of cancer.

Learning Outcomes

After this lesson, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify the three types of muscle found in the body
  • Describe rhabdomyosarcoma, leiomyosarcoma and osteosarcoma
  • Summarize the role of a histopathologist in diagnosing cancers
  • Explain how surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be used to treat these types of cancers

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