Survival statistics for soft tissue sarcomas | Cancer Research UK
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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.


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About the information on this page

This page has quite detailed information about the survival rates for different stages of soft tissue sarcoma. People ask us for this information but not everyone diagnosed with cancer wants to read it. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment, you can always come back to it later.

The statistics here are intended as a general guide and can't tell you what is likely to happen in your individual case.


Cancer statistics in general

We have a section explaining cancer statistics and also explaining incidence, mortality and survival. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, it might help to read this before you read the statistics below.

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.

Please note that there are no UK national statistics available for different stages of sarcoma or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different UK and international sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each section of Cancer Research UK's patient information. We provide statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot tell you what will happen in your individual situation.


Overall outlook

In England, almost 60 out of 100 people with soft tissue sarcoma (60%) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. Your individual outlook will depend on various factors, such as your age, the type of sarcoma and its position in the body.


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 out of 100 people (90%) survive for 5 years or more. In people with stage 2 sarcoma around 80 out of 100 (80%) will survive for  5 years or more. And for stage 3 sarcoma, almost 60 out of 100 (60%) will survive for 5 years or more. 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.


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.


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.


More detailed statistics 

If you would like to read more about survival rates and other statistics for soft tissue sarcoma, go to our CancerStats page:

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Updated: 10 February 2015