Survival Rates for Selected Adult Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors

Survival rates are a way to get a general idea of the outlook (prognosis) for people with a certain type of tumor. They tell you what portion of people with the same type of tumor are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 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 about how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 70% means that an estimated 70 out of 100 people who have that type of tumor are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these people live much longer than 5 years.

Relative survival rates (like the numbers below) are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare people with cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of tumor is 70%, it would mean that people who have that type of 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.

But remember, the 5-year relative survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.

Survival rates don’t tell the whole story

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. There are some limitations to remember:

  • Thesenumbers are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, people who are now being diagnosed with brain or spinal cord tumors may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
  • The outlook for people with brain or spinal cord tumors varies by the type of tumor and the person’s age. But many other factors can also affect a person’s outlook, such as their age and overall health, where the tumor is located, and how well the tumor responds to treatment. The outlook for each person is specific to their circumstances.

Your doctor can tell you how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.

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 2000 and 2014. As can be seen below, survival rates for brain and spinal cord tumors can vary widely by age, with younger people tending to have having 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. 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





Low-grade (diffuse) astrocytoma




Anaplastic astrocytoma












Anaplastic oligodendroglioma




Ependymoma/anaplastic ependymoma








Remember, these survival rates are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any individual. 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, Gittleman H, Xu J, et al. CBTRUS statistical report: Primary brain and other central nervous system tumors diagnosed in the United States in 2009-2013. Neuro Oncol. 2016;18 Suppl 5:v1−v75.

Last Medical Review: September 30, 2017 Last Revised: November 7, 2017

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