Brain Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideCancer 101 Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Understanding Cancer

Cancer 101 Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Understanding Cancer

What is the prognosis (outcome) of treated brain cancer?

Survival of treated brain cancer varies with the cancer type, location, and overall age and general health of the patient. In general, most treatment plans seldom result in a cure. Reports of survival greater that five years (which is considered to be long-term survival) vary from less than 10% to a high of 32%, no matter what treatment plan is used; recovery from brain cancer is possible but realistically, complete recovery does not occur often. However, about 75% of children will survive longer than five years; often because of chronic diseases, the elderly have poorer outcomes except with the lowest grade tumors.

So, why use any treatment plan? Without treatment, brain cancers are usually aggressive and result in death within a short time span. Treatment plans can prolong survival and can improve the patient's quality of life for some time. Again, the patient and caregivers should discuss the prognosis when deciding on treatment plans.

In general, life expectancy in patients with brain cancer is usually described as a survival rate five years after diagnosis. The survival rate is expressed as a percentage of people still alive five years after the diagnosis and/or treatment. The survival rates vary with the type and grade of brain cancer and the age of the patient. For example, glioblastomas in patients aged 20-44 have a five-year survival rate of 17% and only a 4% rate in patients aged 55-64. In contrast, patients with a meningioma (a benign brain tumor) in the same age groups have survival rates of 92% and 67%, respectively. These survival rates change as advancements in treatment plans improve; the patient and his/her doctors should discuss these rates as they are only estimates, and each person is different. Survival with no reoccurrence of the disease after five years is considered a cure by some; however, close follow-up with doctors is usually recommended to quickly evaluate any possible recurrence of the cancer.

What can I do to help my family (and me) cope with my diagnosis of brain cancer?

Discuss your concerns openly with your doctors and family members. It is common for brain cancer patients to be concerned about how they can continue to lead their lives as normally as possible; it is also common for them to become anxious, depressed, and angry. Most people cope better when they discuss their concerns and feelings. Although some patients can do this with friends and relatives, others find solace in support groups (people who have brain cancer and are willing to discuss their experiences with other patients) composed of people who have experienced similar situations and feelings. The patient's treatment team of doctors should be able to connect patients with support groups. In addition, information about local support groups is available from the American Cancer Society at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/4/2015
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