Thirtysix long-term survivors following the treatment of a malignant supratentorial brain tumor were examined for cognitive functions and global level of autonomy. Eighteen patients were symptom-free (SF) and 18 had clinical and neuroradiological recurrence (RE). The control group included 30 healthy subjects. All subjects underwent a neuropsychological battery for general and specific cognitive functions. The level of autonomy was assessed by means of the Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) for oncological patients. SF patients showed less impairment than RE patients both at the tests, as well as on the KPS. The cognitive deficits were subclinical in most SF patients, the tests for attention, memory and word fluency being the most sensitive in detecting subtle dysfunctions. The association between tumor location and specific cognitive deficits was inconstant in both patient groups. The results suggest that even subtle cognitive deficits can prevent SF long-term survivors from returning to premorbid autonomy and occupations, and that neuropsychological tests may be used as complementary routine indicators of their quality of life. Furthermore, our data show that, in selected patients, combined treatments and therapeutic insistence do not necessarily have the same deleterious effects.