Brain Tumor Facts & Statistics
It is not unusual for patients, survivors, family members and friends, to dwell on the dire statistics they may read or hear about with regards to brain tumors. It is easy to take such statistics literally, thinking that they apply to your situation. This can leave one feeling profoundly depressed and robbed of all hope.
It is, of course, natural to want to gather all possible information about the progression of a serious disease. After all, someone’s life is at stake. However, it is important to remember that statistics are not conclusive – they provide a slice of information, but may not reflect an individual’s prognosis. Statistics are based on averages and group data. The importance of individual differences must be taken into account when looking at this information.
When it comes to brain tumors, it is crucial to understand that no two tumors are alike. There are a multitude of factors that determine prognosis, such as genetic composition, location of the tumor, age and cognition, and an individual's general health. Since no two people have the same physical constitution, all of these factors play an important role in the survival of brain tumor patients.
Statistics about brain tumors and treatment may indicate an increased survival of just several weeks or months with the use of one treatment over another. Such a limited time horizon can leave a brain tumor patient depressed and unwilling to try a therapy they believe will have little benefit. Again, it is important to remember that some therapies affect brain tumors in different ways for different people.
This is not to suggest that statistical data on brain tumors be ignored. Rather, they simply need to be taken with a dose of objectivity and an understanding of what they represent.
Facts about Brain Tumors
- Each year more than 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a primary or metastatic brain tumor. Primary brain tumors comprise approximately 40,000 of these diagnoses.(1)
- Brain tumors are the leading cause of solid tumor cancer death in children under the age of 20, now surpassing acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). They are the second leading cause of cancer death in male adults ages 20-29 and the fifth leading cause of cancer death in female adults ages 20-39.(2,5)
- Metastatic brain tumors, cancer that spreads from other parts of the body to the brain, are the most common types of brain tumors. They occur in 10-15% of people with cancer. Primary brain tumors generally do not metastasize to other parts of the body.(3)
- There are over 120 different types of brain tumors, which make effective treatment complicated. They can be malignant or non-malignant (benign), and in either case, can be just as injurious or life threatening. At present, the standard treatments for brain tumors include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. These may be used either individually or in combination.
- Brain tumors in children are different from those in adults, and consequently, are treated differently. As many as 69% of children will survive, but they are often left with long-term side effects.(5)
- There are currently no known causes of brain tumors, however, epidemiological studies are ongoing. Complete and accurate data on all primary brain tumors is needed to provide the foundation for investigations of its causes and research leading to improved diagnosis and treatment.
- Brain tumors have no socio-economic boundaries and do not discriminate among gender or ethnicity.
- At this time, brain tumor research is underfunded and the public remains unaware of the magnitude of this disease. The cure rate for most brain tumors is significantly lower than that for many other types of cancer.
Statistics about Brain Tumors
- Males have a 0.66% lifetime risk of being diagnosed with a primary malignant brain tumor and a 0.50% chance of dying from a brain tumor.(6)
- Females have a 0.54% lifetime risk of being diagnosed with a primary malignant brain tumor and a 0.41% chance of dying from a brain tumor.(6)
Distribution of Brain Tumors:
- Metastatic brain tumors have the greatest incidence rate, with breast, lung and melanoma being the most common cancers to metastisize to the brain.
- Meningiomas are the most common type of primary brain tumors at 27.4%. The Glioma family of tumors account for 44.4% of all tumors, with Glioblastoma being the most common type of Glioma at 51.9% and Astrocytoma representing 21.6% of all Gliomas.(1)
Distribution of All Primary Brain and CNS Tumors by Histology. The following information was gathered by CBTRUS from 1995-1999 with a subject pool (n) of 37,788. It represents the distribution of all primary brain and CNS tumors by histology:
- Meningioma: 27.4%
- Glioblastoma: 23.0%
- Astrocytomas: 11.3%
- Nerve Sheath: 7.5%
- Pituitary: 6.6%
- Oligodendrogliomas: 4.0%
- Lymphoma: 2.7%
- Ependymomas: 2.2%
- Embryonal, including Medulloblastoma: 1.9%
- All Other: 12.6%
- The five-year relative survival rate following diagnosis of a primary malignant brain tumor, excluding lymphoma, is 32.7% for males and 31.6% for females.(6)
- The five-year relative survival rates following diagnosis of a primary malignant brain tumor by age of diagnosis:(1,6)
Age 0-19 years: 63.1%
Age 20-44 years: 50.4%
Age 45-64 years: 14.2%
Age 65 or older: 4.9%
- The estimated five- and ten-year relative survival rates for malignant brain tumors are 28% and 24% respectively. However, there is a large variation in survival estimates between types of brain tumors. Five-year survival rates exceed 85% for pilocytic astrocytomas but are less than 5% for glioblastomas.(1, 6)
- Survival generally decreases with older age at diagnosis. Children and young adults have better survival for most histologies.(1, 6)
1. Report, Primary Brain Tumors in the United States, 1992-1997.
2. SEER Pediatric Monograph, 1975-94, Table XXVII-7.
3. Yung, A., Sawaya, R., Curran, W. and Fuller, G. "Intracranial Metastatic Central Nervous System Tumors," Cancer in the Nervous System, Ed Levin. Churchill Livingston, Inc. 1996, page 243.
4. CBTRUS Report
5. Jemal, A., Murray, T., Samuels, A. Cancer Statistics, 2003. January/February 2003. Vol. 53, No. 1. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. American Cancer Society. Page 5-26.
6. Ries LAG, Eisner MP, Kosary CL, Hankey BF, Miller BA, Clegg L, Edwards BK (eds.) Seer Cancer Statistics Review, 1973-1999: National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, 2002.
The source for the majority of this information is the 2002-2003 Primary Brain Tumors in the United States Statistical Report written by the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS). For more statistical information about brain tumors go to the CBTRUS website at www.cbtrus.org.
Provided by The Brain Tumor Society