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Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage 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.
Statistics on the outlook for people with 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 keep in mind that 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Breitfeld PP, Meyer WH. Rhabdomyosarcoma: New windows of opportunity. Oncologist. 2005;10:518-527.
Meza JL, Anderson J, Pappo AS, Meyer WH. Analysis of prognostic factors in patients with nonmetastatic rhabdomyosarcoma treated on Intergroup Rhabdomyosarcoma Studies III and IV: The Children’s Oncology Group. J Clin Oncol. 2006;24:3844-3851.
Okcu MF, Hicks J. Rhabdomyosarcoma in childhood and adolescence: Epidemiology, pathology, and molecular pathogenesis. UpToDate. Accessed at www.uptodate.com/contents/rhabdomyosarcoma-in-childhood-and-adolescence-epidemiology-pathology-and-molecular-pathogenesis on May 29, 2018.
Wexler LH, Skapek SX, Helman LJ. Chapter 31: Rhabdomyosarcoma. In: Pizzo PA, Poplack DG, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016.
Last Revised: March 2, 2023