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).

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 might result in a better 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 2010. 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 can have different outlooks. For example, the survival rate for PNETs below includes medulloblastomas, pineoblastomas, and PNETs in other parts of the brain. Medulloblastomas tend to have a better outlook than the other PNETs. Therefore the actual survival rate for medulloblastomas would be expected to be higher than the number below, while the number for other PNETs would likely be lower.

    Type of Tumor

    5-Year Survival Rate

    Pilocytic astrocytoma

    About 95%

    Fibrillary (diffuse) astrocytoma

    About 80% to 85%

    Anaplastic astrocytoma

    About 30%


    About 20%


    About 90% to 95%

    Ependymoma/anaplastic ependymoma

    About 75%

    PNETs (includes medulloblastoma and pineoblastoma)

    About 60% to 65%

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of children who had the disease, but they can’t 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 can also affect a child’s outlook, such as the location and extent of the tumor and how well it responds to treatment. Even taking these other factors into account, survival rates are at best rough estimates. Your child’s doctor knows your child’s situation and is your best source of information on this topic.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: August 12, 2014 Last Revised: January 21, 2016

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