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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

What are the survival rates for osteosarcoma?

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing the prognosis (outlook) of a person with a certain type and stage of cancer. Some patients or parents of children with cancer may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you do not want to read about the survival statistics for osteosarcoma given in the next few paragraphs, skip to the next section.

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years (and many are cured).

In order to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Advances in treatment since then may mean a more favorable outlook for people now being diagnosed with osteosarcoma.

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. Many other factors can affect a person’s outlook, such as the subtype and location of the osteosarcoma and how well the cancer responds to treatment. Your (child’s) doctor can tell you if the numbers below may apply, as he or she is familiar with the aspects of your (child’s) situation.

The rates below are based on the stage of the cancer when it is first diagnosed. When looking at survival rates, it’s important to understand that the stage of a cancer does not change over time, even if the cancer progresses. A cancer that comes back or spreads is still referred to by the stage it was given when it was first found and diagnosed, but more information is added to explain the current extent of the cancer. (And of course, the treatment plan is adjusted based on the change in cancer status.)

Localized tumors

With modern treatment, the 5-year survival rate for patients with localized osteosarcoma is in the range of 60% to 80%. These cancers are more likely to be cured if they are resectable, that is, when all of the visible tumor can be completely removed (resected) by surgery. (For high-grade osteosarcomas that can be completely resected, chemotherapy is still an essential part of treatment. Without it, the cancer is still very likely to come back.)

Metastatic tumors

If metastases are present when the osteosarcoma is first diagnosed, the 5-year survival rate is about 15% to 30%. The survival rate is closer to 40% if the cancer has spread only to the lungs (as opposed to having reached other organs), or if all of the tumors (including metastases) can be removed with surgery.

Other factors that may affect prognosis

As noted above, factors other than the stage of the cancer can also affect survival rates. For example, factors that have been linked with a better prognosis include:

  • Being younger (child or young adult, as opposed to older adult)
  • Being female
  • The tumor being on an arm or leg (as opposed to the hip bones)
  • The tumor(s) being completely resectable
  • Normal blood alkaline phosphatase and LDH levels
  • The tumor having a good response to chemotherapy

Last Medical Review: 01/08/2013
Last Revised: 02/06/2014