Survival for Brain Cancer

Cancer survival rates are typically discussed in terms of 5-year relative survival, which means the proportion of patients alive five years after their diagnosis. Keep in mind that statistics like these are based on large groups of people, includes all subtypes of the disease, and cannot predict what might happen with an individual patient.

In addition, the most current national data is from patients diagnosed between 2014 and 2018, which doesn’t reflect the impact of recent treatment advances.

In the United States, overall survival among people diagnosed with brain and other nervous system cancers (including all types and stages of disease) is 32.6%. The National Cancer Institute records survival rates using very broad categories regarding stage of the disease. However, unlike other cancer types, the brain cancer stage is not as significant a factor in prognosis because brain tumors do not typically metastasize:

  • Localized disease. In patients with early-stage, localized cancers in whom the cancer is confined to the primary site, 5-year survival is 35.1%.
  • Regional disease. Among those whose cancer has spread to regional lymph nodes, the survival is 20.5%.
  • Distant disease. Patients with cancer that has metastasized to other body areas at the time of diagnosis, have a survival rate of 30%.

Learn more brain and nervous system statistics from the National Cancer Institute.

Other factors that contribute to prognosis

  • Brain cancer type. Survival varies widely among different tumor types. For example, 5-year relative survival for glioblastoma is 5.7%, but for astrocytoma, the most common type of glioma, survival is 43.6%. For other gliomas, 5-year survival is 73.9%
  • Benign tumors. Benign tumors of the brain and surrounding structures occur. These tumors have a much higher survival rate — and in many instances can be cured.
  • First treatment success. The most important factor in a patient’s prognosis is the success and effectiveness of their very first treatment, typically surgery.

If you received your diagnosis in an emergency room, or are admitted at another hospital, please call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) before beginning any treatment. Our experts will confer with your personal physician and can arrange for your transfer to Roswell Park if necessary.

Get a second opinion
Andrew J. Fabiano, MD, FAANS
We have an obligation to provide patients with statistics, and I strive to be honest and forthright with my patients. That said, for a given patient, what matters is not the statistics but how that individual patient is treated and responds to treatment. Brain tumors can be challenging to treat however we have many patients who have lived and continue to live well-beyond statistical predictions. Everyone gets our best effort Andrew Fabiano, MD, FAANS