How Long Does Brain Cancer Take to Kill You? 

This article aims to answer how long brain cancer takes to kill you. The article will discuss benign and cancerous brain tumours. It will also discuss treatment options as well as techniques to find out whether you have a brain tumour or not. The answer discusses some frequently asked questions in the end as well. 

How Long Does Brain Cancer Take to Kill You? 

The survival rate for each type of brain tumour. These may vary based on several factors such as an individual’s age, race and overall health. The survival rate of each type of brain tumour may differ based on these factors and it’s difficult to predict the mortality rate of such individuals diagnosed with brain cancer. Based on the average we get the estimate of the survival rate. 

The survival rate of 5 per cent tells by what per cent of people will survive five years post-diagnosis. While studying the five-year survival rate for one of the most common types of brain tumour meningioma, it was found that: More than 87% of adults who were aged 40 and older, over 96% of children aged 14 and under, as well as over 97% of people ages 15-39, were diagnoses with this form of brain tumour. 

For people diagnosed with cancerous (malignant) brain tumours in England generally, 40 out of 100 people (40%) survive their cancer for 1 year or more than 10 out of 100 people (more than 10%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more. However, the survival rates depend on different factors. 

These are general statistics based on large groups of people, this can’t predict your individual case. It’s important to check with your doctor to understand your prognosis. 

There are many different kinds of brain tumours, some of which are rare, hence the survival rate depends on several different factors. 

Depending on the type of tumour, the prognosis might differ.

Some individuals respond better to radiotherapy for instincts, while others might not. Some forms of brain tumours also spread to the surrounding regions of the brain tissue. This might serve as a complication during the surgery, as it may be difficult to remove through the surgical process. 

The grade of tumour plays a significant role in some types of tumours. However, in some tumours, it might be difficult to predict their behaviour. Studies have shown that fast-growing which are high-grade tumours are more prone to returning than low-grade tumours. 

Surgery is the most important treatment for some types of tumours. However, there might be parts of the brain that are difficult to operate on. For eg: the areas near the nerves that control one’s sight, spinal cord, and brain stem as well as areas close to blood vessels.  Hence, the position of the brain can affect the type of treatment as well as further prognosis.  

When surgery is not possible for areas affected by the tumour, in such areas, radiotherapy or chemotherapy is a better option as a form of treatment. The shape and size of the brain tumour play an important role in treatment. Larger tumours are more difficult to remove. The prognosis of people younger than 40 is often better. 

What is a brain tumour?

A brain tumour is caused by abnormal growth or mass of cells that surround the brain region. Central nervous system (CNS) tumours combine spine tumours and brain tumours. 

Brain tumours are of two kinds: Malignant (cancerous) and benign (noncancerous). Some kinds of brain tumours grow at a faster pace while others take time and grow slowly. Only one-third of brain tumours turn out cancerous. Brain tumours if grown large enough spread through the blood vessels, tissue and nerves that surround them. This compromises an individual’s health and brain function. 

There are two types of brain tumours, one that develops in an individual’s brain is called primary tumours, and the other type that spreads to different other regions of the brain after spreading to different other parts of the body is known as the secondary tumour, also known as a metastatic brain tumour. 

What are the types of brain tumours?

There are 150 different types of brain tumours that researchers have identified. The primary tumours are known as glial which are composed of glial cells in the brain. 

The other kind is the non-glial, these are developed on or in the structures of your brain, including nerves, blood vessels and glands, the other kind are benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). There are types of tumours that are formed in the spinal column and spinal cord. 

Brain tumours can develop at any age and can affect children as well as adults. People assigned male at birth are slightly more affected by tumours than people assigned female at birth. 

For people who are assigned female at birth, meningioma, which is a non-cancerous brain tumour is more common. However, a more serious kind of tumour known as glioblastoma is more common in people of different age groups. 

Since the skull is rigid, it doesn’t provide much space for the tumour, hence it doesn’t matter if the tumour is cancerous or not, it can lead to potential problems. There are several problems that a person can face if the tumour develops in parts of the brain that control several vital functions. Follow are the list of symptoms :

  1. Weakness
  2. The problem in balance and coordination
  3. Difficulty walking 
  4. Complete or parietal loss of vision.
  5. Difficulty with memory
  6. Difficulty in understanding and using language. 

Brain tumours can cause several other dysregulations such as destroying healthy brain tissue, it increases pressure within the skull (intracranial pressure). It blocks the regular flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that flows within the brain, this causes such places to enlarge. 

It also causes bleeding in the brain. Some kinds of brain tumours don’t cause symptoms, nor do they expand in size to compromise the tissues that surround those regions. 

What are the signs and symptoms of brain tumours?

Some people who have a brain tumour experience no symptoms, especially if it’s minimal in size. The signs and symptoms of brain tumours always vary depending on the size, location and type of brain tumour. These might include:

  1. They might face difficulty in thinking, speaking and understanding language. 
  2. Sudden seizures
  3. Headaches present in the morning, or while sleeping. 
  4. Vision and hearing loss
  5. Loss of balance and motor coordination
  6. Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.
  7. Changes in the personality
  8. Nausea and vomiting
  9. Facial numbness and tingling sensations
  10. Disorientation 

How is a brain tumour diagnosed?

Health care providers discover brain tumours by performing several imaging tests that give a better understanding of the tumour size, which might help with the diagnosis. However, diagnosis is a complicated process as it requires several specialists to work together. 

Through a thorough a physical exam, healthcare providers can assist you based on your symptoms.

Several other neurological examinations might be done, this is to understand and look for any changes in your balance and coordination, hearing, vision, reflex, and mental status examinations. Changes such as these might be able to understand the nature of the tumour.

What are the kinds of tests done to diagnose a brain tumour?

Owonikoko et al (2014) highlight the following tests are done to diagnose brain tumours: 

The most commonly used test is the MRI test, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the best tests to identify and diagnose any form of brain tumours. Another form of test alternative to MRI is Computed tomography (CT)

A substance called the contrast agent is injected into the patient’s veins to see the tumour more clearly. Tests such as the MRI and CT scans can show the position as well as the size of the tumour in a detailed manner. In order to see the spread of the tumour, the health providers can look at different parts of the body such as the lungs, breasts, and colon. 

A process known as Biopsy (removal of a sample of the tumour for examination under a microscope)  is performed by surgeons to identify the type of tumour and check if it’s cancerous. 

The neurosurgeon performs the surgery to remove all or parts of the tumour. A process known as stereotactic biopsy is performed if the brain region is too difficult to reach. This involves them creating a small hole in the skull by using a needle to take a sample of the tissue from that brain region. 

Another way to examine the brain regions is known as a Spinal tap (lumbar puncture). In this process, the surgeon uses a small needle to remove cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the spine. 

Later, this fluid is examined to check for cancer cells. Usually, this procedure is conducted if the tumour has spread through the layers of tissues that cover several brain regions(meninges).

There are other specialized tests that help with the diagnosis. Healthcare providers order several tests to check the cerebrospinal fluid and blood for substances released called tumour markers. 

A test to check for factors such as genetic abnormalities are done, these form the basic characteristic of certain types of tumour. 

Brain tumours cannot be prevented. However, the risk of developing brain tumours can be reduced by reducing smoking and excessive exposure to radiation therapy. 

Biological relatives (Sibling or parent) diagnosed with brain tumours need to be tested. Genetic counselling is recommended to check for any inherited genetic syndrome, which is associated with different brain tumours. 

The prognosis for people diagnosed with brain tumours will vary from person to person. 

In most cases, the tumour is successfully removed and people live a functional life. In others, the tumour might return post-treatment. 

In this case, the treatment might continue and other treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy might be suggested in order to keep the tumour from further spreading to other regions. 


This article answered how long brain cancer takes to kill you. The article discussed benign and cancerous brain tumours. It also discusses treatment options as well as techniques to find out whether you have a brain tumour or not. The answer discusses some frequently asked questions in the end as well. 

Frequently Asked Questions: How Long Does Brain Cancer Take to Kill You? 

What are the factors that affect the prognosis of cancerous tumours?

Following is the list of factors that affect prognosis: Your age and overall health, the tumour’s grade, time and location, and if the tumours have been removed from the brain. 

What are the frequently asked questions that healthcare providers ask when it comes to diagnosing brain tumours? 

The most frequently asked questions that healthcare providers might ask can be Past and current health issues, Ongoing medications, Family medical history, Surgeries and any form of medical treatment.

What is affected by Alzheimer’s disease?

Explicit memories are hugely affected by Alzheimer’s disease. 


Owonikoko, T. K., Arbiser, J., Zelnak, A., Shu, H. K. G., Shim, H., Robin, A. M., … & Olson, J. J. (2014). Current approaches to the treatment of metastatic brain tumours. Nature reviews Clinical oncology, 11(4), 203-222.