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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Survival rates for rhabdomyosarcoma by risk group

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some people may want to know the survival statistics for those in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you would rather not read about the survival rates, skip to the next section, “How is rhabdomyosarcoma treated?”

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. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for patients now being diagnosed with RMS.

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. The risk group of a person’s cancer is important in estimating their outlook. But many other factors can also affect their outlook, such as their age, the location of the tumor, certain gene changes in the cancer cells, and how well the cancer responds to treatment.

Here are general survival statistics based on risk groups. These numbers come from large clinical trials treating children with RMS in the 1980s and 1990s.

Low-risk group

Overall, the 5-year survival rate for children in the low-risk group is over 90%. Most of these children will be cured.

Intermediate-risk group

For those in the intermediate-risk group, the 5-year survival rates range from about 60% to about 80%. The rate varies somewhat based on tumor location, stage, and the age of the child (children aged 1 to 9 tend to do better than older or younger children).

High-risk group

If the cancer has spread widely, the 5-year survival rate is generally around 20% to 40%. Again, it’s important to note that other factors, such as the age of the patient and the site and type of tumor will affect these numbers. For example, children with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS) and limited spread (to only 1 or 2 distant sites) have a higher 5-year survival rate. Also, children 1 to 9 years of age tend to have a better outlook than younger or older patients.

Even when taking risk groups and other factors into account, survival rates are at best rough estimates. Your child’s doctor is your best source of information on this topic, as he or she is familiar with the aspects of your situation.

Last Medical Review: 08/13/2013
Last Revised: 08/13/2013