Childhood brain and spinal tumours

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Survival statistics for childhood brain and spinal cord cancer

Survival statistics for childhood brain and spinal cord cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of children, they cannot be used to predict a particular child’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your child’s doctor can explain the statistics for childhood brain and spinal cord cancer and what they mean for your child.

Observed survival

Sometimes an observed survival statistic is reported for childhood brain and spinal cord cancer. The observed survival is often used when talking about prognosis. Observed survival is the percentage of children with a particular cancer who are expected to live for a specified period of time after their diagnosis. Observed survival does not consider the cause of death, so children could have died from cancer or other causes.

The 5-year observed survival for all stages and types of childhood brain and spinal cord cancer in children 0–14 is 74%. This means that, on average, 74% of all children diagnosed with brain and spinal cord cancer will be alive 5 years (or more) after diagnosis.

Survival by tumour type

Survival varies with the type and location of each tumour, the extent of the disease, how much of the tumour can be removed by surgery and the age of the child. For example, almost 90% of children with low-grade astrocytomas are cured, while children with high-grade brain stem gliomas have less than a 10% chance of surviving 2 years.

Tumour type5-year observed survival



Intracranial and intraspinal tumours


Questions about survival

Parents of children with cancer should talk to their doctor about their child’s prognosis. Prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • child's medical history
  • type of cancer
  • stage
  • characteristics of the cancer
  • treatments chosen
  • expected response to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.


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