The outlook for soft tissue sarcoma (STS) can depend on many factors, such as the stage and type of sarcoma and where it is in the body. For all stages combined, the average 5-year relative survival rate is 65%.

A 5-year relative survival rate compares those with the same type and stage of STS with people in the overall population. It predicts how likely someone will survive for 5 years after their diagnosis.

This article looks at estimated survival rates for STS and factors that may affect the outlook.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) provides the following estimates for STS in adults and children in the United States in 2023:

  • There will be around 13,400 new diagnoses of STS.
  • These will comprise around 7,400 diagnoses in males and 6,000 diagnoses in females.
  • Around 5,140 people, comprising 2,720 males and 2,420 females, will die from STS.

The ACS provides 5-year relative survival rates for STS according to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database from the National Cancer Institute.

The SEER database provides the following survival rates of STS in the U.S. from 2010 to 2016:

SEER stageStage description 5-year relative survival rate
LocalizedThe cancer remains in the same area it began in.81%
RegionalThe cancer has spread to nearby areas or lymph nodes.56%
DistantThe cancer has spread to distant areas of the body from when it first began.15%
All stages The overall survival rate from combined SEER stages.65%

For example, someone with localized STS is, on average, about 81% as likely as an individual without this type of cancer to live for at least 5 years after receiving a diagnosis.

However, STS is treatable, and doctors can sometimes cure it. Generally, the most effective treatment option for localized STS is surgery. Removing STS where possible gives the best likelihood of curing it.

Various factors may affect the outlook of STS, including:

  • a person’s age and overall health
  • the type of STS
  • the size, stage, and grade of the tumor
  • the location of the tumor in the body
  • whether surgery can remove all of the tumor
  • whether the cancer is recurring

Surgery may effectively treat low grade, small tumors, particularly those in the arms, legs, or trunk. High grade tumors have a higher risk of spreading and may be more challenging to treat.

According to a 2020 article, up to 50% of people with STS will develop distant or metastatic cancer, which becomes more challenging to treat and may negatively affect the outlook.

Below is a table of some subtypes of STS and their respective 5-year relative survival rates.

For an appropriate idea of survival rates for a specific type of sarcoma and each individual, it may be best to talk with a healthcare professional.

Type of STS5-year relative survival rates
leiomyosarcomalocalized: 62%
regional: 34%
distant: 13%
fibrosarcomafor all grades, 40–60%
rhabdomyosarcomalow risk: 70–90%
intermediate risk: 50-70%
high risk: 20-30%
survival rates are for children, so adult survival rates may differ
undifferentiated sarcomalocalized: 68%
regional: 36%
distant: 21%
angiosarcomabetween 10–50%

In general, receiving treatment as early as possible may improve the overall outcome of STS.

The standard treatments for STS include:

Surgery to remove the tumor is the most common treatment and may be the only treatment people require for small, low grade tumors.

Surgery is the best option to cure STS, so doctors will use this whenever possible. Additionally, radiation therapy after surgery may reduce the risk of the cancer returning.

People with STS may find it helpful to seek support from people going through similar experiences.

Support groups, programs, and organizations focusing on STS or cancer experiences may help, such as:

People can also ask a healthcare professional for recommendations for support groups and programs for people affected by STS.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about STS and its outlook.

What is the life expectancy of someone with STS?

According to the ACS, for people with STS that has not spread, the 5-year relative survival rate is 81%.

This means those with STS that has not spread are 81% as likely to be alive 5 years after the initial diagnosis as people without the condition.

However, survival rates can depend on various factors, so it is difficult to predict for each individual. Age, overall health, and the location and stage of the tumor can all affect the outlook.

Is STS terminal?

STS can be terminal, depending on the individual case.

Many factors affect whether STS is terminal, such as the grade of tumor, if it has spread, and a person’s overall health.

However, it is possible for doctors to treat and even cure STS, particularly if they find it early.

Removing the tumor completely with surgery gives the best likelihood of curing STS.

The outlook for STS can depend on various factors, including the stage, grade, location, and size of tumor, as well as a person’s age and overall health.

Removing the tumor completely with surgery may be the most effective treatment for STS and may cure the disease.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may also help shrink the tumor, improve surgery outcomes, and help prevent the cancer from returning.