The Different Types of Skeletal and Muscle Tumors

The Different Types of Skeletal and Muscle Tumors
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  • 0:05 A Lifetime of Studying
  • 1:03 The Main Muscles in Our Body
  • 1:31 Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • 2:40 Leiomyosarcoma
  • 3:47 Osteosarcoma
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
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.

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.


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.


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.

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