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. These numbers tell you what portion of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you exactly what will happen with any person, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that treatment will be successful. Some people find survival rates helpful, but some people might not.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 70% means that an estimated 70 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. 

Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years (and many are cured).

But remember, the 5-year relative survival rates are estimates – each person’s outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to them.

Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story

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 person’s case. There are a number of limitations to remember:

  • The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with osteosarcoma may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
  • These statistics are based on the extent of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. They do not apply to cancers that later come back or spread, for example.
  • The outlook for people with osteosarcoma varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer – in general, the survival rates are higher for people with earlier stage cancers. But 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 how the numbers below may apply, as he or she is familiar with your (child’s) particular situation.

Survival rates for localized osteosarcomas

The 5-year survival rate for people 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, if all of the visible tumor can be removed (resected) by surgery. (For high-grade osteosarcomas that can be resected completely, chemotherapy is still an essential part of treatment. Without it, the cancer is still very likely to come back.)

Survival rates for metastatic osteosarcomas

If the osteosarcoma clearly has already spread when it is first found, 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 teen, as opposed to 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

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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Last Medical Review: December 17, 2017 Last Revised: January 30, 2018

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