About non-cancerous brain tumours
Non-cancerous brain tumours tend to stay in one place and don't spread. They won't usually come back if all of the tumour can be safely removed during surgery. Because they aren't cancerous they can often be successfully treated, but they're still serious and can be life threatening.
If the tumour can't be completely removed, there's a risk it could grow back. In this case it'll be closely monitored using scans or treated with radiotherapy.
The information on this page is about non-cancerous brain tumours. Read about malignant brain tumours.
Symptoms of non-cancerous brain tumours
The symptoms of a non-cancerous brain tumour depend on how big it is and where it is in the brain. Some slow-growing tumours may not cause any symptoms at first.
Common symptoms include:
- new, persistent headaches
- seizures (epileptic fits)
- persistent nausea, vomiting and drowsiness
- mental or behavioural changes, such as changes in personality
- weakness or paralysis, vision problems, or speech problems
When to see your GP
See your GP if you have symptoms of a brain tumour. While it's unlikely to be a tumour, these symptoms need to be assessed by a doctor.
Your GP will examine you and ask about your symptoms. They may also test your nervous system.
If your GP thinks you may have a brain tumour or they're not sure what's causing your symptoms, they'll refer you to a brain and nerve specialist called a neurologist.
Causes of non-cancerous brain tumours
The cause of most non-cancerous brain tumours is unknown, but you're more likely to develop one if:
- you're over the age of 50
- you have a family history of brain tumours
- you have a genetic condition that increases your risk of developing a non-cancerous brain tumour – such as neurofibromatosis type 1, neurofibromatosis type 2, tuberous sclerosis, Turcot syndrome, Li-Fraumeni cancer syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, and Gorlin syndrome
- you've had radiotherapy
Treating non-cancerous brain tumours
If you are diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumour, your hospital consultant will discuss treatment options with you.
Treatment will depend on the type and location of the tumour.
Surgery is used to remove most non-cancerous brain tumours. They don't usually come back after being removed. But sometimes tumours do grow back or become cancerous.
If all of the tumour can't be removed, other treatments, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy, may be needed to control the growth of the remaining abnormal cells.
If you have a benign brain tumour, your outlook will depend on a number of factors including:
- your age
- the type of tumour you have
- where it is in your brain
- how effective the treatment is
- your general level of health
Survival rates are difficult to predict because brain tumours are rare and there are many different types. The hospital consultant treating you will help you to understand your treatment options and what outcome to expect.
Generally, in Northern Ireland, about for those with benign brain tumours 87 in every 100 will survive for five years or more after being diagnosed.
Recovering from treatment for a non-cancerous brain tumour
After treatment, you may have persistent problems, such as seizures and difficulty with your speech and walking. You may need supportive treatment to help you recover from, or adapt to, these problems.
Many people are eventually able to resume their normal activities, including work and sport, but it can take time.
You may find it useful to speak to a counsellor if you want to talk about the emotional aspects of your diagnosis and treatment.
- Read more about non-cancerous brain cancers, including incidence and survival statistics on Northern Ireland Cancer Registry website