Survival Rates for Selected Adult Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors

Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage of people with the same type of brain or spinal cord tumor are still alive a certain amount of time (such as 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific type of tumor, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. These statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor about how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.

What is a 5-year relative survival rate?

A relative survival rate compares people with the same type of tumor to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of brain tumor is 70%, it means that people who have that tumor are, on average, about 70% as likely as people who don’t have that tumor to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

Survival rates for more common adult brain and spinal cord tumors

The numbers in the table come from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS) and are based on people who were treated between 2001 and 2015. As can be seen below, survival rates for some types of brain and spinal cord tumors can vary widely by age, with younger people tending to have better outlooks than older people. The survival rates for those 65 or older are generally lower than the rates for the ages listed below.

These numbers are for some of the more common types of brain and spinal cord tumors. Accurate numbers are not readily available for all types of tumors, often because they are rare or are hard to classify.

Type of Tumor

5-Year Relative Survival Rate

Age

20-44

45-54

55-64

Low-grade (diffuse) astrocytoma

73%

46%

26%

Anaplastic astrocytoma

58%

29%

15%

Glioblastoma

22%

9%

6%

Oligodendroglioma

90%

82%

69%

Anaplastic oligodendroglioma

76%

67%

45%

Ependymoma/anaplastic ependymoma

92%

90%

87%

Meningioma

84%

79%

74%

Understanding the numbers

  • These numbers don’t take everything into account. Survival rates are grouped here based on tumor type and a person’s age. But other factors, such as the location of the tumor, whether it can be removed (or destroyed) completely, and if the tumor cells have certain gene or chromosome changes, can also affect your outlook.
  • People now being diagnosed with brain or spinal cord tumors may have a better outlook than these numbers show. Treatments improve over time, and these numbers are based on people who were diagnosed and treated at least five years earlier.
  • Remember, these survival rates can’t predict what will happen to any individual person. If you find these statistics are confusing and you have more questions, talk to your doctor to better understand your specific situation.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Ostrom QT, Cioffi G, Gittleman H, et al. CBTRUS statistical report: Primary brain and other central nervous system tumors diagnosed in the United States in 2012–2016. Neuro-Oncol. 2019;21 Suppl 5:v1–v100.

References

Ostrom QT, Cioffi G, Gittleman H, et al. CBTRUS statistical report: Primary brain and other central nervous system tumors diagnosed in the United States in 2012–2016. Neuro-Oncol. 2019;21 Suppl 5:v1–v100.

Last Revised: May 5, 2020

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