Sarcomas only make up around 1% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States. Nonetheless, the Sarcoma Alliance argues that statistics about sarcoma are misleading and underplay the risk of sarcoma for adults and children in the U.S. Unfortunately, overemphasizing the rarity of sarcoma decreases research funding and interest, and has consequences for people both with and without sarcoma.
If you or your loved one are one of the 12,000 Americans diagnosed with sarcoma each year, these misleading statistics can make you feel alone. On the flip side – if you don’t know anyone diagnosed with sarcoma, you may be unaware of the risks and consequences of sarcoma. This knowledge is key, however, because early diagnosis significantly increases your chances of surviving sarcoma.
In honor of Sarcoma Awareness Month, we will discuss 5 surprising sarcoma statistics below.
5 Surprising Sarcoma Statistics
- 1 in 350 people will be diagnosed with sarcoma in their lifetime. However, this statistic is often replaced with a more sensational one – “The odds of getting a sarcoma are about 40 per million in any given year.” Most cancer statistics are provided as lifetime risk (e.g., 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime), so presenting sarcoma risk as risk in a one-year timeframe makes it seem rarer than it is.
- Sarcomas make up 15% of cancer diagnoses for children. Although sarcoma only makes up about 1% of all cancer diagnoses, sarcoma is relatively more common among children. The reason this doesn’t influence the overall cancer diagnoses statistic is because pediatric cancers themselves are rare, and contribute only about 1% of all cancer diagnoses in the U.S.
- The 5-year survival rate of all sarcoma diagnoses is 64%. Although, the 5-year survival rate is strongly affected by the stage of sarcoma when it is treated. For example, when sarcoma is found in the metastatic stage, the 5-year survival rate drops to 16%. Unfortunately, in 15% of sarcoma diagnoses, the sarcoma is in the metastatic stage. This reemphasizes the importance of early detection and treatment.
- There are over 70 types of sarcoma. Among soft tissue sarcomas, the most common include vascular (blood vessel) sarcomas, smooth muscle sarcomas, fibrohistiocytic sarcomas, and liposarcoma. The most common bone sarcomas include multiple myeloma, osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma.
- The median age of people diagnosed with sarcoma is only 41 years for bone cancers and 58 years for soft tissue cancers. This is significantly lower than individuals diagnosed with other types of cancer. The median age of individuals diagnosed with any type of cancer in the United States is 66 years old.