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Statistics and outlook for soft tissue sarcoma

Men and woman discussing soft tissue sarcomas

This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with soft tissue sarcomas. There is information about


A quick guide to what's on this page

Statistics and outlook for soft tissue sarcoma

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Doctors call this your prognosis. With soft tissue sarcoma, the likely outcome depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed (the stage).

On this page we have some information on the factors that may affect your outcome. We don't yet have detailed information about the survival rates for  the different types of soft tissue sarcoma. We are in the process of gathering statistics from our experts and from national centres and will make these available as soon as we can.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wants to read this type of information. 

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.


CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating soft tissue sarcoma cancer section.



What you need to know about the information on this page

We don't have detailed information about the survival rates for the different types of soft tissue sarcoma. But we have some general statistics that include all types of sarcoma. Not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.

We are in the process of gathering statistics about different types of sarcoma from our experts and from national centres and will make these available as soon as we can. There is some statistical information about soft tissue sarcoma on the risks and causes page.


General sarcoma statistics

Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, you may find it helpful to go to our section about different types of cancer statistics before you read the information below.

In the UK, the most recent figures looking at soft tissue sarcoma survival are from between 2006 and 2010. These show that more than half (50%) of people with soft tissue sarcoma lived for more than 5 years. Your individual outlook will depend on various factors, such as your age, the type of sarcoma and its position in the body.

Please note - No UK statistics are available for different stages of soft tissue sarcoma or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each section of CancerHelp UK. We give statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and can't tell you what will happen in your individual case.

You may hear doctors use the term ‘5 year survival’. This does not mean you will only live 5 years. It relates to the number of people who are alive 5 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for at least 5 years after treatment in any research study. This is because there is usually only a small chance of the cancer coming back more than 5 years after treatment. Doctors do not like to say these people are cured because there is that small chance. So they use the term ‘5 year survival’ instead.


Factors affecting outcome

The outcome for someone with a sarcoma depends on

  • Where it is in the body
  • The size when it is diagnosed and whether it has spread
  • How deep the tumour is in the tissues
  • The grade - what the cells look like under the microscope
  • The type of sarcoma

Generally, the smaller the tumour, the better the outcome is likely to be. Tumours smaller than 5cm across are less likely to spread and most likely to be cured. Sarcomas are also easier to treat if they are near the surface of the body, rather than deeper in the body tissues. High grade tumours are more likely to spread than low grade tumours.

Grade is probably the most important factor. Low grade sarcomas usually grow very slowly and can often be successfully removed with no further problems. High grade tumours can often be successfully treated if they haven't spread. Once a sarcoma has spread to another part of the body, it is very difficult to keep it under control and unlikely to be possible to get rid of it altogether.


Outcome by stage of sarcoma

There are no UK statistics for outcomes by stage of sarcoma. There are statistics from the USA for soft tissue sarcoma in the arms or legs. These suggest that for stage 1 sarcoma around 90% of people live for more than 5 years. In people with stage 2 sarcoma more than three quarters (80%) will live for more than 5 years. And for stage 3 sarcoma, more than half the people (56%) will live for more than 5 years. These statistics are expected to be similar to those for the UK. There are no statistics for sarcomas that have spread to other parts of the body (stage 4), but they have a lower survival rate than stage 3.


Using cancer statistics

People who have been diagnosed with cancer are naturally concerned about their outlook for the future. It is natural to want to try to use statistics to work out your chances of being cured. It is important to remember that statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They cannot predict exactly what will happen to you. No two patients are exactly alike and how well treatment works also varies from one person to another. You should feel free to ask your doctor about your prognosis, but not even your doctor can tell you for sure what will happen.

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Updated: 10 February 2015