Brain Tumor Information

Facts, Statistics and Details


The majority of normal cells grows old and dies. New cells replace them. But sometimes an altered process occurs. The old cells or damaged cells do not die and new cells form, even though unneeded by the body. The extra cells often result in a mass of tissue or a tumor.

A brain tumor is a mass or an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain or inside the skull. Brain tumors, unlike other tumors , spread by local extension and rarely spread or metastasize outside the brain. The tumor can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A tumor which originates in the brain tissue is categorized as a primary brain tumor , while a secondary or metastatic brain tumor is cancer that has spread to the brain tissue from other parts of the body.

The cause of brain tumors is currently unknown, however epidemiological studies continue. Research is severely underfunded and the awareness of this disease is significantly lower than that of many other types of cancer.

Malignant brain tumors do not have distinct borders and tend to grow rapidly, causing pressure within the brain. It is highly unlikely for malignant brain tumors to spread beyond the central nervous system .

  • Malignant tumors are more serious and often life-threatening
  • Cells can break from the malignant brain tumor, spreading to other parts of the brain or to the spinal cord. Rarely do these cancerous cells spread to other parts of the body

Benign brain tumors have defined borders and are composed of harmless cells that usually can be entirely removed. The cells do not invade nearby tissues, but can place pressure on sensitive areas, causing severe pain, brain damage or even be life-threatening.

  • When removed, benign brain tumors seldom return
  • Benign tumors can turn into malignant tumors


Brain Tumors Can Develop at Any Age

Each year more than 210,000 persons in the U.S.1 are diagnosed with a primary or metastatic brain tumor. Brain tumors can develop at any age with no socio-economic boundary. Plus, they can affect any race or gender. Primary brain cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death between birth and age 34 and the fourth most common cause of cancer death in men ages 35-54.2 More facts:

  • Incidence rate of all primary non-malignant and malignant brain and central nervous system tumors: 19.3 per 100,000 persons. The rate is slightly higher among females, 20.7 versus 17.9 per 100,000 for males.3
  • Incidence rate for malignant brain tumors only: 7.3 per 100,000; for non-malignant: 12.1 per 100,000.3
  • 64,530 Americans were expected to be newly diagnosed in 2011 with a primary brain tumor (malignant and benign).4
  • An estimated 4,150 children (under age 20) were expected to be diagnosed with a primary brain tumor or central nervous system tumor in 2011.3 That's 11 each day. About 28,000 children are living with the diagnosis of a primary brain tumor.5

Of these new cases, an estimated 2,960 will be children under age 15. Plus, pediatric brain tumors aren't like those in adults. Children's brain tumors require specific research and different treatments.

  • Survival rates are reportedly higher for children than adults. (72.5 percent of children under 20 will be living five years after a malignant tumor or central nervous tumor diagnosis, while 37.5 percent of adult women and 33.8 percent of adult men will be alive five years after diagnosis).3 & 4
  • During one’s lifetime, the chance of developing a malignant or central nervous system brain tumor is less than 1 percent (0.7 percent for men and 0.5 percent for women).3
  • The incidence of all primary brain and central nervous system tumors appears to increase steadily with age. The lowest incidence rate is among those under age 20 (4.8 per 100,000 persons). The rate at age 75 is 67.8 per 100,000.4
  • 13,140 deaths were attributed to primary and central nervous system tumors in 2010 in the U.S.3
1. National Brain Tumor Society.

2. The The main sources of The Free Dictionary's Medical Dictionary are The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary, Second Edition, and Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Care Consumers.
3. Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS).
4. American Brain Tumor Association.
5. Porter KR, McCarthy BJ, Freels S, Kim Y, Davis FG. “Prevalence Estimates for Primary Brain Tumors in the U.S. by Age, Gender, Behavior and Histology,” Neuro-Oncology, 12(6): 520 527, 2010.