Brain Tumor: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of people who will diagnosed with a brain tumor each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors, and no 2 people with a tumor are the same. Use the menu to see other pages.

Every person is different, with different factors influencing their risk of being diagnosed with this tumor and the chance of recovery after a diagnosis. It is important to talk with your doctor about any questions you have around the general statistics provided below and what they may mean for you individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.

How many people are diagnosed with a brain tumor?

A primary brain or spinal cord tumor is a tumor that starts in the brain or spinal cord. In 2023, an estimated 24,810 adults (14,280 men and 10,530 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with primary cancerous tumors of the brain and spinal cord. A person’s likelihood of developing this type of tumor in their lifetime is less than 1%. Brain tumors account for 85% to 90% of all primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors. Worldwide, an estimated 308,102 people were diagnosed with a primary brain or spinal cord tumor in 2020.

It is estimated that 5,230 children under the age of 20 will also be diagnosed with a CNS tumor in the United States in 2023. The rest of this guide deals with primary brain tumors in adults. Learn more about brain tumors in children.

In addition to primary brain tumors, there are also secondary brain tumors or brain metastases. This is when the tumor started somewhere else in the body and spread to the brain. The most common cancers that spread to the brain are breast, kidney, and lung cancers, as well as leukemia, lymphoma, and melanoma. This guide covers primary adult brain tumors only.

Brain and other nervous system cancer is the 10th leading cause of death for men and women. It is estimated that 18,990 deaths (11,020 men and 7,970 women) from primary cancerous brain and CNS tumors will occur in the United States in 2023. In 2020, an estimated 251,329 people worldwide died from primary cancerous brain and CNS tumors.

What is the survival rate for a brain tumor?

There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a person’s chance of recovery from a brain tumor. These are called survival statistics. A specific type of survival statistic is called the relative survival rate. It is often used to predict how having a tumor may affect life expectancy. Relative survival rate looks at how likely people with a brain tumor are to survive for a certain amount of time after their initial diagnosis or start of treatment compared to the expected survival of similar people without this tumor.

Example: Here is an example to help explain what a relative survival rate means. Please note this is only an example and not specific to this type of cancer. Let’s assume that the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific type of cancer is 90%. “Percent” means how many out of 100. Imagine there are 1,000 people without cancer, and based on their age and other characteristics, you expect 900 of the 1,000 to be alive in 5 years. Also imagine there are another 1,000 people similar in age and other characteristics as the first 1,000, but they all have the specific type of cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 90%. This means it is expected that 810 of the people with the specific cancer (90% of 900) will be alive in 5 years.

It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with a brain tumor are only an estimate. They cannot tell an individual person if the tumor will or will not shorten their life. Instead, these statistics describe trends in groups of people previously diagnosed with the same disease, including specific stages of the disease.

The 5-year relative survival rate for a cancerous brain or CNS tumor is almost 36%. The 10-year survival rate is over 30%.

The survival rates for a brain tumor vary based on several factors. These include the grade and prognostic factors of a tumor, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works. Another factor that can affect outcomes is the type of brain or spinal cord tumor (see Introduction).

The 5-year relative survival rate for people younger than age 15 is about 75%. For people age 15 to 39, the 5-year relative survival rate nears 72%. The 5-year relative survival rate for people age 40 and older is 21%.

Experts measure relative survival rate statistics for a brain tumor every 5 years. This means the estimate may not reflect the results of advancements in how a brain tumor is diagnosed or treated from the last 5 years. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2023; the ACS website; the CBTRUS Statistical Report: Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2015-2019, published October 2022; the International Agency for Research on Cancer website; and the National Cancer Institute website. (All sources accessed February 2023.)

The next section in this guide is Risk Factors. It describes the factors that may increase the chance of developing a brain tumor. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.