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Survival

Find out about brain tumour survival.

Survival depends on many different factors. It depends on your individual condition, type of cancer, treatment and level of fitness. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. 

These are general statistics based on large groups of patients. 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.

Brain tumours are quite rare. And there are many different types. Survival depends on what type of tumour you have. Some types are very rare and it can be difficult to find survival statistics for all of the types.

Survival for all types of brain tumour

The statistics below are for people diagnosed with malignant brain tumours in England. They are for people diagnosed between 2009 and 2013.

Generally for people with malignant brain tumours, around 15 out of every 100 people (around 15%) survive their cancer for 5 or more years after diagnosis.

Survival for different types of brain tumour

Acoustic neuromas are also called vestibular schwannomas. They are benign tumours that are nearly always curable.

There are no UK wide statistics for astrocytoma survival. The figures below are from the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) and are for astrocytoma survival in England.

  • More than 90 out of 100 people (more than 90%) with grade 1 astrocytoma survive their disease for 5 years or more after their diagnosis
  • Around 50 out of 100 people (around 50%) with grade 2 astrocytoma survive their disease for 5 years or more after diagnosis

  • More than 20 out of 100 people (20%) with grade 3 astrocytoma survive their disease for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

  • Around 5 out of 100 people (around 5%) with grade 4 astrocytoma survive their disease for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

Children with astrocytoma

The UK National Registry of Childhood Tumours (NRCT) has national survival statistics for children with some types of brain tumours. These statistics are for children who had surgery to remove their brain tumour. Statistics are not available for grade 2 tumours.

  • More than 95 out of 100 children (more than 95%) with grade 1 astrocytoma (pilocytic astrocytoma) survive for 5 years or more after their diagnosis. And around 95 out of 100 children (around 95%) survive for 10 years or more after their diagnosis

  • Around 20 out of 100 children (around 20%) with grade 3 astrocytoma (anaplastic astrocytoma) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis. And around 20 out of 100 children (around 20%) survive for 10 years or more after diagnosis

  • Around 10 out of 100 children (around 10%) with grade 4 astrocytoma (glioblastoma) survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. And more than 5 out of 100 children (more than 5%) with grade 4 astrocytoma (glioblastoma) survive for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed

Ependymoma survival depends on tumour grade. It is also depends on whether the tumour is in the brain or the spinal cord. These figures are from the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) and are for ependymoma survival in England.

For people with brain ependymoma:

  •  around 90 out of 100 people (around 90%) with a grade 1 tumour survive their disease for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  •  around 70 out of 100 people (around 70%) with a grade 2 tumour  survive their disease for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  • almost 50 out of 100 people (50%) with a grade 3 tumour survive their disease for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

For people with spinal ependymoma:

  • over 90 out of 100 people (over 90%) with a grade 1 or grade 2 tumour survive their disease for 5 years or more after diagnosis

Children with ependymoma

The UK National Registry of Childhood Tumours (NRCT) has some national survival statistics for children with ependymoma. These statistics are for children who had surgery to remove their tumour.

For children with ependymoma:

  • 65 out of 100 children (65%) live for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed
  • almost 60 out of 100 children (almost 60%) live for 10 years or more after their diagnosis

Oligodendroglioma and oligoastrocytomas can be grade 2 (low grade) or grade 3 (also called anaplastic). Prognosis depends on the tumour grade. Low grade tumours have a better outlook than high grade tumours. Other factors affect outlook, such as gene changes within the cancer cells.

The figures below are for all grades of oligodendroglioma and oligoastrocytoma. There are no UK wide statistics for survival for these tumours. The figures below come from a large European study, and are for people diagnosed between 2005 and 2007. 

For people in Europe with oligoendroglioma and oligoastrocytoma:

  • around 70 out of 100 people (around 70%) will survive their disease for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed

  • more than 40 out of 100 people (more than 40%) will survive their disease for 5 years or more after diagnosis

Oligodendrogliomas are rare in children so it is difficult to find statistics for survival in the UK or Europe. Generally, survival in children is better than in adults.

Meningiomas are grouped into 3 grades.

  • Grade 1, which are slow growing and also called benign or low grade

  • Grade 2, which are also called atypical or intermediate grade

  • Grade 3, which are aggressive and also called anaplastic or high grade

Your prognosis depends on your tumour grade. Most meningiomas are low grade (benign).

There are no UK wide survival statistics for meningioma.

The figures for grade 1 meningioma survival come from the National Brain Tumour Registry. These statistics are for people diagnosed with grade 1 meningioma in the East of England region between 2005 and 2009.

For people with grade 1 meningioma:

  • almost 90 out of 100 people (almost 90%) survive their disease for 1 year or more after diagnosis

  • more than 80 out of 100 people (more than 80%) survive their disease for 5 years or more after diagnosis

It is difficult to find survival statistics for grade 2 and grade 3 meningioma. The following statistics are from 2 small UK studies. Bear in mind that the figures are based on only a small number of patients.

For people with grade 2 meningioma:

  • 95 out of 100 people (95%) survive for 1 year or more after diagnosis
  • more than 80 out of 100 people (more than 80%) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis

  • almost 75 out of 100 people (almost 75%) survive for 10 years or more after diagnosis

For people with grade 3 meningioma:

  • 75 out of 100 people (75%) live for 1 year or more after diagnosis
  • almost 40 out of 100 people (almost 40%) live for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

Meningiomas are rare in children so it is difficult to find statistics for survival. 

PNETs and medullablastoma are both types of embryonal brain tumours. The tumours develop in embryonic cells that remain in the brain after birth.

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

For adults with all types of embryonal brain tumours:

  • almost 60 out of 100 people (almost 60%) will survive their disease for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed
  • 35 out of 100 people (35%) will survive their disease for 5 years or more after diagnosis

Children with PNETs and medullablastoma

The following statistics are for children diagnosed with PNETs and medullablastomas between 1996 and 2005. They are from the National Registry of Childhood Tumours and are for children in the UK who had surgery to remove their tumour.

For children with PNETs:

  • almost 35 out of 100 children (almost 35%) will live for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed 
  • almost 30 out of 100 children (almost 30%) will live for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed

For children with medullablastoma:

  • around 65 out of 100 children (around 65%) will live for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed
  • around 60 out of 100 children (around 60%) will live for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed

Pituitary tumours are nearly always benign, so they grow slowly and tend not to spread. There are no UK survival statistics for these tumours.

The following statistics are from America. 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.

For people diagnosed with pituitary and craniopharyngeal duct tumours:

  • more than 70 out of 100 people (more than 70%) will survive their disease for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

The outlook for pineal tumours depends on the type of tumour you have. There are no UK statistics for survival for these tumours.

The following statistics are from America and are for all types of pineal tumours. 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.

For people diagnosed with pineal region tumours:

  •  almost 75 out of 100 people (almost 75%) will survive their disease for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

Different types of tumours can grow in the spinal cord. The outlook depends on what type you have. There are no statistics for spinal cord tumour survival in the UK. 

The following statistics are from America. They are for all types of tumours in the spinal cord. 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.

For people with spinal cord tumours:

  • 80 out of 100 people (80%) will survive their disease for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

These tumours tend to be quick growing tumours. There are no UK wide statistics for this type of tumour.

An international review of cases found that for people with haemangioperictyomas:

  • 95 out of 100 people (95%) survive for more than a year after diagnosis 

  • more than 80 out of 100 people (more than 80%) survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis 

  • around 60 out of 100 people (around 60%) survive for 10 years or more after diagnosis 

  • more than 20 out of 100 people (more than 20%) will survive for more than 20 years after diagnosis 

CNS lymphoma is rare and can be difficult to treat. But survival rates are improving as more research is done into treating these tumours. There are no UK statistics for CNS lymphoma survival.

The following statistics are from America, for patients diagnosed between 2000 and 2008.

For all people with primary CNS lymphoma:

  • around 50 out of 100 people (around 50%) survive their disease for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed
  • around 30 out of 100 people (around 30%) survive their disease for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed

Haemeangioblastomas are slow growing tumours that generally have a good outlook. But this depends on their position in the brain. The outlook is better if the surgeon can remove the tumour. 

What affects survival

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 (infiltrate) into the surrounding brain tissue. This may make them impossible to remove with surgery.

Grade of the tumour cells

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 will respond to treatment. Generally, fast growing tumours are much more likely to come back after treatment than slow growing tumours.

Position in the brain

The position of the tumour in the brain may affect the type of treatment that doctors can give. For example, surgery is a main treatment for most types of brain tumour. But some parts of the brain are more difficult to operate on than others. Sometimes the tumour may be in an area where it is not possible to remove it all with a safety margin of healthy tissue around it. This may increase the risk of the cancer coming back.

In some areas of the brain it is not possible to operate at all. These include the nerves that control your sight (optic nerves) or the brain stem, spinal cord, or areas close to or surrounding major blood vessels. For tumours in these areas, radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be better options for treatment. The outlook will then depend on how well the tumour responds to those treatments.

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 younger people.

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: 
02 May 2016
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser 
    Blackwell, 2015

  • Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)
    VT De Vita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

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