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Brain tumours

Primary brain tumours

There are two different types of primary brain tumour; non-cancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant)

Types of brain tumour


Gliomas start in the glial cells. There are three main types; astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma and ependymoma. The tumour can be a mix of more than one type.


Meningiomas develop in the layers of tissue that surround the brain and spinal cord. They are usually benign and typically grow very slowly.


Craniopharyngiomas generally occur above the pituitary gland. This is found in a small hollow behind the eyes. This pea-sized gland controls many physical and hormonal functions.

Germ cell tumours

Germ cell tumours that develop in the brain are rare, as they typically develop in the ovaries or testicles. They are called extragonadal germ cell tumours.

Pituitary tumours

Pituitary tumours develop in the pituitary gland, which lies in a small hollow just behind the eyes. They are usually benign, meaning they grow slowly and don’t spread.

Uncertain or unknown brain tumours

Sometimes it may be impossible to diagnose a tumour, due either to the complexity of accessing it within the brain or due to the cells it is made up of being unknown.

Secondary tumours

Secondary tumours are cancers that spread to the brain from another part of the body. This is more likely to happen with some types of lung, breast, bowel, kidney and skin cancer.

Tumours grades

Tumours are classified by type and grade (how slowly or quickly it grows).

An outline of the grading is as follows:
  • Grade 1 - Benign tumours, where the cells are only marginally abnormal and tend to grow very slowly
  • Grade 2 - Malignant tumours, where the cells appear abnormal in comparison to unaffected brain cells
  • Grade 3 - Malignant tumours, where the cells are significantly abnormal in appearance and actively growing
  • Grade 4 - Malignant tumours, where the cells are highly abnormal and grow rapidly.

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of a brain tumour? icon plus

    Symptoms of a brain tumour can be caused by the tumour itself or by the impact of pressure caused by swelling in the brain. The tumour’s location, or where the pressure occurs, determines the type of symptoms.

    Common symptoms of brain tumours include:

    • headaches
    • seizures
    • drowsiness
    • nausea and/or vomiting
    • loss of sight or impaired vision

    Depending on where the brain tumour occurs you may experience other symptoms.

    Whilst there are many other reasons that can cause these symptoms, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the above.

  • Diagnosing a brain tumour icon plus

    If your consultant suspects a brain tumour, it is important that diagnostic tests are done quickly to determine the cause of your symptoms. If your symptoms are not related to a brain tumour, we can refer you to our other medical services and can provide quick access to the appropriate specialist. Diagnostic tests may include:

    • full medical examination
    • blood tests with access to advanced pathology laboratories
    • CT / PET CT scan
    • 3T MR/MRI scan

    If these tests diagnose a tumour then a second phase of tests will be carried out to establish the type and grade of the tumour and the appropriate treatment. You may require a biopsy and/or surgery. Throughout this process your consultant will keep you up-to-date with the results of each test, explain the results to you and advise on next steps and treatment plans.

  • Treatment options icon plus

    At HCA UK we provide a wide range of specialist and advanced treatments. Your consultant will discuss your diagnosis and treatment options with you in detail and help you make an informed decision about your care. Brain tumours are traditionally treated with surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, depending on the type and location of the tumour. These treatments may be used in isolation or as part of a combined treatment plan:

    • combination therapy (chemotherapy and radiotherapy)
    • intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
    • immunotherapy
    • clinical trials

Our brain tumour specialists

Our experienced consultant oncologists and neurosurgeons specialise in the early detection and latest treatments for brain tumours.
Consultant in theatres

Our locations

From complex oncology and neurosurgery to tests and diagnostic procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Request an appointment

Our booking teams can help you make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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