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Brain Tumors: Prognosis

What is a prognosis?

Prognosis is the word your healthcare team may use to describe your chances of recovering from cancer. Or it may mean your likely outcome from cancer and cancer treatment. A prognosis is a calculated guess. It’s a question many people have when they learn they have cancer.

Making a choice

The decision to ask about your prognosis is a personal one. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to know. Some people find it easier to cope and plan ahead when they know their prognosis and the statistics for how well a treatment might work. Other people find statistics confusing and frightening. Or they might think statistics are too general to be useful.

A doctor who is most familiar with your health is in the best position to discuss your prognosis with you and explain what the statistics may mean in your case. At the same time, you should keep in mind that your prognosis can change. Cancer and cancer treatment outcomes are hard to predict. For instance, a favorable prognosis (which means you’re likely going to do well) can change if the cancer spreads to key organs or doesn’t respond to treatment. An unfavorable prognosis can change, too. This can happen if treatment shrinks and controls the cancer so it doesn’t grow or spread.

What goes into a prognosis?

When figuring out your prognosis, your doctor will consider all the things that could affect the tumor and its treatment. Your doctor will look at risk estimates about the tumor. These are based on what researchers have found out over many years about many people with brain tumors. When possible, your doctor will use statistics for groups of people whose situations are most like yours to estimate your prognosis.

If your tumor is likely to respond well to treatment, your doctor will say you have a favorable prognosis. If your tumor is likely to be hard to control, your prognosis may be less favorable. It is important to keep in mind that a prognosis states what is probable. It is not a prediction of what will definitely happen. No doctor can be fully certain about an outcome.

Your chance of recovery may depend on:

  • The type of brain tumor

  • The location of the tumor

  • Whether the tumor can be removed completely

  • Your age and overall health

Other factors might also affect your prognosis.

Understanding survival rates

Survival rates show what portion of people live for a certain length of time after being told they have a tumor. The rates are for people with a certain type of tumor. Often statistics refer to the 5-year or the 10-year survival rate. That’s the portion of people are still living at least 5 years or 10 years after diagnosis. Survival rates are not necessarily the same as a cure rate. The survival rate includes people at these 2 stages:

  • People who are free of their tumor

  • People who are still being treated for their tumor

What are the survival rates for brain tumors?

The 5-year survival rates for people with brain tumors vary widely based on tumor type, the size and location of the tumor, a person's age, and other factors. Even within a tumor type, there can be wide variation, and not everyone "fits the curve." Your doctor, who is familiar with your situation, is the best source of information about your particular case.

Talking with your healthcare provider

You can ask your healthcare provider about survival rates and other information. Remember that statistics are based on large groups of people. They cannot be used to predict what will happen to you. No 2 people are exactly alike. Treatment and how well people respond to treatment varies.

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Cunningham, Louise, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 7/14/2015
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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