Staging and prognosis for brain cancer

The grade describes the rate at which tumours grow and the likeliness or ability to spread into nearby tissue. Most brain and spinal cord tumours don’t spread in the body. However, your medical team may need to do other tests to check if the cancer has spread (e.g. CT or MRI scans, or checking the cerebrispinal fluid).

Other tests to determine the type of tumour may also be used to predict how a tumour will grow.

Brain and spinal cord tumours are usually given a grade on a scale of 1 to 4. The grade is worked out by looking at the tumour cells and comparing them to normal cells.

Learn more about:

Grading brain and spinal cord tumours

  • Grades 1 and 2 – These are the slowest-growing tumours. They are called low-grade tumours.
  • Grade 3 – Tumours grow at a moderate rate. They are called high-grade tumours.
  • Grade 4 – These are the fastest-growing tumours. They are also called high-grade tumours.


Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is not possible for any doctor to predict the exact course of your disease.

There are many factors that may affect your prognosis, including:

  • tumour type
  • location of the tumour
  • grade
  • age, family history and your general health.

Both benign and malignant tumours can be life-threatening, but you may have a better prognosis if the tumour is benign or low-grade, or if a surgeon is able to remove the entire tumour.

Some brain or spinal cord tumours, particularly gliomas, can come back (recur). In this case, treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used to control the growth of the tumour for as long as possible, relieve symptoms, and improve quality of life.

This information was last reviewed in May 2016
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