Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Survival rates for selected childhood brain and spinal cord tumors

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some parents may want to know the survival statistics for children in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you do not want to read about the survival statistics for brain and spinal cord tumors given in the next few paragraphs, skip to the next section.

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of children who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many children live much longer than 5 years (and many are cured).

In order to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at children who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a more favorable outlook for children now being diagnosed with brain tumors.

The numbers below come from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS) and are based on children aged 19 or younger who were treated between 1995 and 2008. There are some important points to note about these numbers:

  • These numbers are for some of the more common types of tumors. Numbers are not readily available for all types of tumors that occur in children, often because they are rare or are hard to classify.
  • In some cases, the numbers include a wide range of different types of tumors that may have different outlooks. For example, the numbers for PNETs include medulloblastomas, which tend to have a better outlook than pineoblastomas or PNETs in other parts of the brain.

    Type of Tumor

    5-Year Survival Rate

 

    Pilocytic astrocytoma

    About 95%

    Fibrillary (diffuse) astrocytoma

    About 85%

    Anaplastic astrocytoma

    About 30%

    Glioblastoma

    About 20%

    Oligodendroglioma

    About 95%

    Ependymoma/anaplastic ependymoma

    About 75%

    PNETs (includes medulloblastoma and pineoblastoma)

    About 60%

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of children who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any particular child’s case. Knowing the type of a child’s brain tumor is important in estimating their outlook. But many other factors may also affect a child’s outlook, such as the location and extent of the tumor and how well it responds to treatment. Even when taking these other factors into account, survival rates are at best rough estimates. Your child’s doctor is your best source of information on this topic, as he or she is familiar with your child’s individual situation


Last Medical Review: 03/22/2013
Last Revised: 01/31/2014