What Is the Prognosis for Brain Cancer?

Brain cancer is a disease that results from the growth of malignant cells within the brain. The prognosis for brain cancer, or its most likely outcome, varies depending on numerous factors, such as the type of tumor, its size and location, and how far it has spread. Of those individuals who are diagnosed with some form of brain cancer, only 50% are expected to live a year. Brain cancer is not a common disease, however, and only a few people each year develop it.

The exact cause of cancer cell formation is unknown, though its growth and development process has been extensively researched. There are two general types of brain cancer, those originating within the brain, or primary tumors, and those originating elsewhere in the body, called metastatic tumors. The latter spread to the brain through the bloodstream. The cancer cells form a tumor that continues to grow, killing healthy cells as it does.

The only proven risk factor for developing brain cancer is a person's place of work. These include working in the rubber industry or at an oil refinery. Embalmers and chemists are also at risk. Other supposed risk factors, such as cell phone use, trauma, exposure to radiation, and smoking have not been definitively proven to lead to brain cancer.


The prognosis for brain cancer is subject to different variables. A person's general health and age can influence treatment and recovery. Factors that work against a person include the type and location of the tumor.

Different treatment methods are available that can influence the prognosis for brain cancer. Treatments are uniquely tailored to each individual, according to the supervising physician's recommendations and the patient's wishes, and may involve surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Surgery is the only invasive form of treatment, requiring the surgeon to physically remove the tumor from the surrounding tissue. Chemotherapy uses chemicals to destroy cancerous cells, while radiation therapy involves administering radiation to the area where the tumor is located.

On average approximately 22,000 people are diagnosed with brain cancer per year in the U.S. Survival for more than five years from the diagnosis is rare, with different statistics claiming only 10% to 30% of patients survive brain cancer. Metastatic tumors that migrate to the brain have a more favorable prognosis, when treated early, than primary brain cancer.

Treatment, as opposed to inaction is almost always recommended for people diagnosed with brain cancer, as it generally increases the likelihood of a favorable prognosis for brain cancer. Without treatment, the tumor will grow rapidly and result in quickly deteriorating health and brain function.



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