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Sarcoma Statistics

Sarcomas Are Described As Being Localized, Regional, Or Metastatic When They Are First Found.

  • Localized means the tumor is only in 1 area of the body.

  • Regional means the tumor involves tissues in a localized area, and there is also a tumor in or attached to nearby tissues or organs.

  • Metastatic means the sarcoma has spread to parts of the body far away from where the sarcoma started.

 

When the sarcoma starts in an arm or a leg, the 5-year survival rates are slightly higher for each stage when compared with sarcoma that starts in other locations.

 This section includes information on how often sarcomas show up as localized, regional, or metastatic. In addition, there is information on survival rates for each situation. This information applies for sarcomas in general and may not apply to a specific type of sarcoma. Talk with your health care team for more information regarding your specific diagnosis.

 In general, cancer statistics often include the 5-year survival rate for a type of cancer. The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The overall 5-year survival rate for sarcoma is 64%.

  • About 70% of sarcomas are found as a localized sarcoma. The 5-year survival rate for people with localized sarcoma is 80%. ***

  • About 15% of sarcomas are found in a regional stage. The 5-year survival rate for people with regional stage sarcoma is 54%. ***

  • About 15% of sarcomas are found in a metastatic stage. The 5-year survival rate for people with metastatic sarcoma is 16%. ***

 It is important to note that the length of time a person lives with sarcoma depends on many factors, including the type of sarcoma, the size, where it is located, and how quickly the tumor cells are growing and dividing, called the grade. If the sarcoma is found at an early stage and has not spread from where it started, surgical treatment is often very effective and many people are cured. On the other hand, if the sarcoma has spread to other parts of the body, treatment can usually control the tumor, but it is not often curable.

 It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with sarcoma are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. People should talk with their doctor if they have questions about this information.Survival by Stage

Survival Rates Are Often Used By Doctors As A Standard Way Of Discussing A Person’s Prognosis (Outlook).

  The 5-year survival rate (or observed 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).

 Five-year relative survival rates assume that some people will die of other causes and compare the observed survival with that expected for people without the cancer. This is a better way to see the effect of the cancer on survival.

  To get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. If treatment has improved since then, people now being diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma may have a more favorable outlook.

  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 individual’s case. Many other factors might affect a person’s outlook, like the type of sarcoma, the location of the tumor, the treatment received, and the age of the patient. For example, sarcomas of the arms or legs have a better outcome than those found in other places. Also, older patients tend to have worse outcomes than younger people. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.

  The rates below are based on the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. 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 the treatment plan is adjusted based on the change in cancer status.)

  The overall relative 5-year survival rate of people with soft tissue sarcomas is around 50% according to statistics from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These statistics include people with Kaposi sarcoma, which has a poorer outlook than many sarcomas. The NCI doesn’t use the AJCC staging system. Instead, they group sarcomas only by whether they are still confined to the primary site (called localized) have spread to nearby lymph nodes or tissues (called regional); or have spread (metastasized) to sites away from the main tumor (called distant). The 5-year survival rates for soft tissue sarcomas have not changed much for many years.

The corresponding 5-year relative survival rates were:

  • 83% for localized sarcomas (56% of soft tissue sarcomas were localized when they were diagnosed)

  • 54% for regional stage sarcomas; (19% were in this stage)

  • 16% for sarcomas with distant spread (16% were in this stage)

 The 10-year relative survival rate is only slightly worse for these stages, meaning that most people who survive 5 years are probably cured. For sarcomas of the arms and legs, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has survival rates broken down by AJCC stage (these are for observed, not relative survival):

 
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Survival is worse when the sarcoma has developed somewhere other than the arms or legs. For example, the 5-year survival for retroperitoneal sarcomas is around 40% to 60%.


Sarcoma Facts

According To The American Cancer Society, More Than 10,500 Cases Of Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Or 2% Of All Cancers, Are Diagnosed In The United States Each Year. Slightly More Than Half Of These Are In Males.

 Sarcomas can start anywhere in the body. Typically, they develop in the soft tissues that surround, connect or support the body’s structure and organs. This includes muscles, joints, tendons, fat, blood vessels, nerves and tissues. They also can begin in the body’s organs.

Types Of Sarcoma

Some soft-tissue sarcomas are benign (not cancer), and others are malignant (cancer). There are more than 30 types of sarcoma, making each extremely rare. Sarcomas are classified into groups that have similar types of cancer cells and symptoms. They usually are named for the type of tissue where they start. Sarcomas within a classification often are treated the same way.

 

The main types of soft-tissue sarcoma begin in:

  • Muscle tissue

  • Peripheral nerve tissue

  • Joint tissue

  • Blood and lymph vessels

  • Fibrous tissue

Sarcomas of uncertain tissue type: In this type of sarcoma, doctors are not able to determine the exact type of tissue where the cancer began.

 

Soft Tissue Sarcoma Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting cancer is a risk factor. For sarcoma, risk factors include:

Inherited genetic conditions such as:

  • Von Recklinghausen disease

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome

  • Gardner syndrome

  • Inherited retinoblastoma

  • Werner syndrome

  • Gorlin syndrome

  • Tuberous sclerosis

Other risk factors include:

  • Damage or removal of lymph nodes during previous cancer treatments.

  • Exposure to vinyl chloride, a chemical used in making plastics.

  • Previous radiation treatment for another cancer.

 

Not everyone with risk factors gets sarcoma. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your health care provider.

Some cases of soft tissue sarcoma can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you.

*** Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2017: Special Section – Rare Cancers in Adults, and the ACS website.