Rhabdomyosarcoma - Childhood: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of children and teens who will be diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with cancer are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.

Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this cancer and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for your child individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.

How many children and teens are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma?

About 400 to 500 people are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma each year. Most people who are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma are children or teens. More than half of childhood rhabdomyosarcomas are diagnosed in those under age 10. Each year in the United States, rhabdomyosarcoma accounts for 3% of cancers in children ages 0 to 14 and 1% of cancers in teens ages 15 to 19. It is the most common soft-tissue sarcoma in children. Boys are slightly more likely to develop the disease than girls.

What is the survival rate for children and teens with rhabdomyosarcoma?

There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from rhabdomyosarcoma. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having cancer may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with rhabdomyosarcoma are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this cancer.

Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for children and teens with rhabdomyosarcoma are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if cancer will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.

The 5-year relative survival rate for children younger than 15 is 71%. The 5-year relative survival rate for teens ages 15 to 19 is 54%.

The survival rates for children and teens with rhabdomyosarcoma vary based on several factors. These include the stage and risk group of cancer, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works. Other factors that can affect outcomes include the tumor type, location, and surgery results.

Children ages 1 to 9 have a better prognosis than people in other age groups. Prognosis is the chance of recovery. The 5-year relative survival rate for children who have low-risk rhabdomyosarcoma ranges from 70% to more than 90%. The 5-year relative survival rate for children in the intermediate-risk group ranges from about 50% to 70%. When the cancer becomes high risk, spreading widely in the body, the 5-year relative survival rate ranges from 20% to 30%.

Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for children and teens with rhabdomyosarcoma every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how rhabdomyosarcoma in children and teens is diagnosed or treated from the last 5 years. Talk with your child’s doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society website. Additional source was: Seigel R, et al.: Cancer Statistics 2023. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2023 Jan; 73(1):17–48. doi/full/10.3322/caac.21763. (All sources accessed March 2023.)

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by rhabdomyosarcoma. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.