Central Nervous System Tumors (Brain and Spinal Cord) - Childhood: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 09/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the estimated number of children and teens who will be diagnosed with a central nervous system (CNS) 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 these tumors 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 your child individually. The original sources for these statistics are provided at the bottom of this page.

How many children and teens are diagnosed with a CNS tumor?

In 2023, an estimated 5,230 brain and other CNS tumors will be diagnosed in children ages 0 to 19 in the United States. Tumors in the brain and other CNS areas are the second most common form of childhood cancers, accounting for about 26% of cancer in children younger than 15 and 21% of cancer in teens ages 15 to 19.

What is the survival rate for CNS tumors?

There are different types of statistics that can help doctors evaluate a child or teen’s chance of recovery from a CNS 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 CNS 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 a CNS 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 children and teens with a CNS 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.

As explained in the Introduction, there are several types of CNS tumors diagnosed in this age group, and survival rates are different for each. In general, the 5-year relative survival rate for children ages 0 to 14 with a CNS tumor, excluding benign brain tumors, is 74%. The 5-year relative survival rate for teens ages 15 to 19 is 75%.

The survival rates for a CNS tumor vary based on several factors. These include the type of tumor diagnosed, the stage of tumor, a person’s age and general health, and how well the treatment plan works.

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

Read more about statistics for a specific type of CNS tumor. For example, review the Statistics section in Cancer.Net’s guide to astrocytoma, if that is your child's specific diagnosis.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's (ACS) publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2023, and the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States Statistical Report: Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2015–2019, published October 2022. Additional source was Seigel R, et al.: Cancer Statistics 2023. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2023 Jan; 73(1):17–48. doi/full/10.3322/caac.21763. (All sources accessed February 2023.)

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by a childhood CNS tumor. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.