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). These numbers tell you what portion of people in a similar situation (such as with the same type and stage of cancer) are still alive a certain amount of time 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 survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as survival rates. The survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least a certain amount of time (usually 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, survival rates are estimates, and they can’t predict what will happen in any person’s case. Each person’s outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to them. Your cancer care team can tell you how the numbers below may apply, as they are familiar with your (child’s) particular situation.

Survival rates for rhabdomyosarcoma

For a person with RMS, the risk group is important in estimating their outlook. But other factors can also affect a person’s outlook, such as their age and how well the cancer responds to treatment. For example, the overall 5-year survival for children with RMS is about 70%, while survival in adults is lower.

Here are general survival statistics based on risk groups. These numbers come from past clinical trials treating children with RMS.

Low-risk group

Overall, the survival rate for children in the low-risk group ranges from about 70% to over 90%. The rate varies based on tumor location, stage, and other factors. Most of these children will be cured.

Intermediate-risk group

For those in the intermediate-risk group, the survival rates range from about 50% to about 70%. The rate varies based on tumor location, stage, and the age of the child. (Children aged 1 to 9 years tend to do better than older or younger children.)

High-risk group

The survival rate in this group is generally around 20% to 30%. Again, it’s important to note that other factors, such as the patient’s age and the location and type of tumor can 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 cancer care team is your best source of information on this topic, as they know your situation best.

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: July 16, 2018 Last Revised: July 16, 2018

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