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Survival

Survival for brain tumours depends on different factors. So no one call tell you exactly how long you will live.

These are general statistics based on large groups of people. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis).

You can also talk about this with the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Survival is different for adults and children with brain and spinal cord tumours.  

What affects survival

Brain tumours are quite rare and there are many different types. Survival depends on many factors.

Type of tumour

Different types of brain tumours respond differently to treatment. Some respond better to radiotherapy than others, for example. Some types are likely to spread into the surrounding brain tissue. This may make them difficult to remove with surgery.

Grade of the tumour 

The grade is one of the most important factors for some types of tumours. But for others, the grade is much less likely to predict how the tumour might behave. Generally, fast growing (high grade) tumours are much more likely to come back after treatment than slow growing (low grade) tumours.

Position in the brain

The position of the tumour may affect the type of treatment you might have. For example, surgery is the main treatment for most types of brain tumour. But some parts of the brain are more difficult to operate on than others. These include areas near the nerves that control your sight (optic nerves), the brain stem, spinal cord, or areas close to major blood vessels.

Sometimes the tumour may be in an area where it isn't possible for doctors to operate on. For tumours in these areas, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be better options for treatment. 

Size or shape of the brain tumour

Large tumours or those where the edge of the tumour is not clear may be more difficult to remove. 

Age at diagnosis

The outlook is often better for people younger than 40.

Survival for all types of brain tumour

The statistics below are from people diagnosed with a cancerous (malignant) brain tumour in England and Wales between 2010 and 2011.

Around 20 out of every 100 people (around 20%) diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour survive for 5 years or more. 

Around 15 out of every 100 people (around 15%) diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour survive for 10 years or more.

Survival for brain tumours is also reported in Scotland and Northern Ireland. But it is difficult to compare survival between these countries because of differences in the way the information is collected. 

Survival for different types of brain tumour

Vestibular Schwannomas are also called acoustic neuromas. They are benign tumours that usually have a good outcome. There are no UK statistics for survival for these tumours. 

Astrocytomas can be slow growing (low grade) or fast growing (high grade). Grade 4 astrocytomas are also called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

There are no UK wide statistics for astrocytoma survival. The figures below are for astrocytoma survival in England.

Low grade astrocytoma
  • more than 90 out of 100 people (more than 90%) with grade 1 astrocytoma survive for 5 years or more
  • around 50 out of 100 people (around 50%) with grade 2 astrocytoma survive their disease for 5 years or more
High grade astrocytoma
  • more than 20 out of 100 people (more than 20%) with grade 3 astrocytoma survive for 5 years or more
  • around 5 out of 100 people (around 5%) with grade 4 astrocytoma (GBM) survive for 5 years or more

Ependymomas can start in the brain or the spinal cord. There are no UK wide statistics for ependymoma survival. The figures below are for ependymoma survival in England.

More than 70 out of 100 people (more than 70%) with ependymoma that start in the brain survive for 5 years or more.

More than 90 out of 100 people (more than 90%) with ependymoma that start in the spine survive for 5 years or more.

There are no UK wide statistics for oligodendroglioma survival. The figures below come from a large European study. The study looked at people diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma between 2000 and 2007. 

Almost 70 out of 100 people (almost 70%) survive for 1 year or more after diagnosis.

Around 40 out of 100 people (around 40%) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Meningiomas can start in the brain or the spinal cord. Most meningiomas start in the brain (cranial meningiomas).

Doctors group meningiomas into groups based on how quickly they are likely to grow (the grade). Most meningiomas are low grade (grade 1 or grade 2). They can also be high grade (grade 3) but this is rare.

There are no UK wide survival statistics for meningioma. The information below is from people diagnosed with a cranial meningioma in England between 1999 and 2013.

Almost 70 out of 100 people (almost 70%) with a grade 1 or grade 2 cranial meningioma survive their cancer for 10 years or more.

Around 40 out of 100 people (around 40%) with a grade 3 meningioma survive their cancer or 10 years or more.

Embryonal tumours develop from cells that are leftover from the early stages of our development. Until recently, doctors talked about embryonal tumours as primitive neuro ectodermal tumours (PNETs). There are different types of embryonal tumours including medulloblastomas and neuroblastomas.  

There are no UK wide statistics for survival for these tumours. The figures below come from a large European study. The study looked at adults diagnosed with all types of embryonal tumours between 2000 and 2007.

Almost 60 out of 100 people (almost 60%) survive for 1 year or more after diagnosis.

Around 35 out of 100 people (around 35%) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Most pituitary tumours are benign (not a cancer). Benign pituitary gland tumours are also called pituitary adenomas.

There are no UK survival statistics for these tumours. The following statistics are from an American study. They looked at people diagnosed with a pituitary tumour between 1995 and 2012. These figures also include tumours of the craniopharyngeal duct, which is close by to the pituitary gland.

Please be aware that due to differences in health care systems, data collection and the population, these figures are not a true picture of survival in the UK.

More than 70 out of 100 people (more than 70%) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

There are many types of tumours that start in the penial region. The outlook for these tumours depends on the type of tumour you have.

There are no UK statistics for survival for these tumours. The following statistics are from an American study. The study looked at people diagnosed with a pineal region tumour between 1995 and 2012.

Please be aware that due to differences in health care systems, data collection and the population, these figures are not a true picture of survival in the UK.

More than 75 out of 100 people (more than 75%) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

There are different types of spinal cord tumours. The most common types are meningiomas, tumours of the spinal nerves and ependymomas.

There are no statistics in the UK for survival of all types of spinal cord tumours. The following statistics are from an American study. The study looked at people diagnosed with a spinal cord tumour between 1995 and 2012.

Please be aware that due to differences in health care systems, data collection and the population, these figures are not a true picture of survival in the UK.

About 80 out of 100 people (80%) survive for 5 years after diagnosis.

Lymphoma of the brain or spinal cord is also known as primary central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma.

There are no UK statistics for primary CNS lymphoma survival. The following statistics are from an American study. The study looked at people diagnosed between 2000 and 2008.

More than 50 out of 100 people (more than 50%) survive for 1 year or more after diagnosis.

More than 30 out of 100 people (more than 30%) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Haemangioblastomas are rare slow growing tumours. They generally have a good outlook, but this depends on their position in the brain. The outlook is better if the surgeon can remove all of the tumour. 

Craniopharyngiomas are tumours that grow near the base of the brain. These tumours do not usually spread and have a good outlook.

About these statistics

The terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival don't mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years. They relate to the number of people who are still alive 1 year or 5 years after their diagnosis of cancer.

Some people live much longer than 5 years.

More statistics

Last reviewed: 
05 Nov 2019
  • The 2016 World Health Organization Classification of Tumors of the Central Nervous System: a summary
    D Louis and others
    Acta Neuropathologica, 2016. Vol 131, Issue 6, Pages 803-820

  • Brain tumours: incidence, survival, and aetiology
    P McKinney and others
    Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 2004. Vol 75, Supplement 2, Pages 12-17

  • Brain, other CNS and intracranial tumours statistics
    Cancer Research UK, Last accessed November 2019

  • Astrocytic brain tumours: survival rates in England
    National Cancer Intelligence Network, 2013

  • Ependymal tumours of the brain and spinal cord: survival rates in England
    National Cancer Intelligence Network, 2013

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact patientinformation@cancer.org.uk with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

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