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What Are the Chances of Surviving Brain Cancer?

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Ask a Doctor

I was just diagnosed with a Grade I brain tumor. I’m scheduled for surgery in a month, followed by a round of chemotherapy. I’m scared to leave my family without me. What are the chances of surviving brain cancer?

Doctor’s Response

So sorry to hear about your diagnosis, but it’s good you’ve caught it early. The major factor(s) that influence brain cancer survival is related to the following: the type of cancer, its location, whether it can be surgically removed or reduced, and the age and overall health status of the patient.

  • The long-term survival rate (life expectancy greater than five years) for people with primary brain cancer varies. In cases of aggressive or high-grade brain cancers it is from less than 10% to about 32%, despite aggressive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments.
  • Treatments do prolong survival over the short term and, perhaps more importantly, improve quality of life for some time, although this time period can vary greatly.
  • Radiation after surgery may increase a patient's expected survival as compared to not receiving it at all. Chemotherapy can further extend life for some patients when given during and/or after radiation therapy.
  • People who have continuing seizures which are difficult to control even with medications generally do poorly over the following six months.

Despite seemingly dismal chances of long-term survival, these chances are clearly greater with treatment than without. Treatment options and best-estimated prognosis should be discussed with the patient's cancer team.

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Reviewed on 8/7/2018
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