Rhabdomyosarcoma - Childhood: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of children and adolescents who are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

About 400 to 500 people are diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma each year, most of them children and adolescents. More than half of childhood rhabdomyosarcomas are diagnosed in those under age 10. Rhabdomyosarcoma accounts for 3% of all new childhood cancers each year in the United States. It is the most common soft tissue sarcoma in children. Girls are slightly less likely to develop the disease than boys.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of children and adolescents live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The 5-year survival rate for children younger than 15 is 71% overall.

However, the rate varies widely depending on the tumor location, stage and risk group, and the child’s age. Children ages 1 to 9 have a better prognosis than patients younger or older than this age range. The 5-year survival rate for children who have low-risk rhabdomyosarcoma ranges from 70% to more than 90%. The 5-year survival rate for children in the intermediate-risk group ranges from 50% to 70%. When the cancer becomes high risk, spreading widely in the body, the 5-year survival rate ranges from 20% to 30%. 

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for children and adolescents with rhabdomyosarcoma are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of children and adolescents with this cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 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’s (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2020, and the ACS website (January 2020).

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.