ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with a brain tumor each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.
A primary brain or spinal cord tumor is a tumor that starts in the brain or spinal cord. This year, an estimated 24,530 adults (13,840 men and 10,690 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.
About 3,460 children under the age of 15 will also be diagnosed with a brain or CNS tumor this year. The rest of this guide deals with adult primary brain tumors. 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 bladder, 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 18,600 adults (10,500 men and 8,100 women) will die from primary cancerous brain and CNS tumors this year.
The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the tumor is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The 5-year survival rate for people with a cancerous brain or CNS tumor is 36%. The 10-year survival rate is about 31%.
Survival rates decrease with age. The 5-year survival rate for people younger than age 15 is more than 75%. For people age 15 to 39, the 5-year survival rate is more than 72%. The 5-year survival rate for people age 40 and over is more than 21%. However, survival rates vary widely and depend on several factors, including the type of brain or spinal cord tumor. Talk with your doctor about what to expect with your diagnosis.
It is important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with a brain tumor are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this tumor in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 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 2021, the ACS website, the CBTRUS Statistical Report: Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2013-2017, published October 2020, and the National Cancer Institute website (sources accessed January 2021).
The next section in this guide is Risk Factors. It explains what factors may increase the chance of developing a brain tumor. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.