Brain Tumours

Brain tumours

What is a brain tumour?

Tumours which begin in the brain tissue are known as primary brain tumours. Secondary tumours are those that develop when cancer spreads to the brain. Primary brain tumours are classified by the type of tissue in which they begin.

About 70% of primary brain tumours are benign, and 30% are malignant.

Tumours can arise on the surface or in the substance of the brain.

What are the different types of brain tumours?

The most common type of brain tumour are gliomas, including:

  • Astrocytomas which occur in the small star-shaped cells called astrocytes.
  • Brain stem gliomas occurring in the lowest stem-like part of the brain.
  • Ependymomas which develop in the lining of the ventricles.
  • Oligodendrogliomas which arise in the cells.

What are the symptoms of a brain tumour?

This depends on the size and location of the tumour in the brain. If a brain tumour grows slowly, its symptoms may be overlooked because they are so gradual. The most frequent symptoms of a brain tumour include:

  • Frequent headaches.
  • Vomiting, blurred and double vision.
  • Numbness on one side, especially in arms and legs.
  • Seizures (convulsions)
  • Changes in speech.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Lack of coordination in walking.
  • Loss of smell.
  • Memory disturbances.
  • Personality changes.
  • Nausea.
  • Abnormal eye movements.

What is the treatment for a brain tumour?

Treatment depends on the type, size and location of the tumour, as well as the patient's age and general health. Surgical removal is often the best means of treating a tumour. Surgery is usually followed by radiation and chemotherapy to kill any remaining parts of the tumour. Steroid drugs may help to reduce brain tissue swelling.

What is the outlook?

This depends on the type of tumour and its location in the brain. Benign tumours are often curable, unless they are in an inaccessible spot, making recurrence possible. Some tumours grow so fast that treatment is not possible. When a tumour is found at an early stage, it can be removed completely.

Back to top of page