Malignant brain tumor (brain cancer)

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A malignant brain tumor is a cancerous growth in the brain.


The symptoms of a brain tumor depend on where it is in the brain.

Common symptoms include:

  • headaches (often worse in the morning and when coughing or straining)
  • fits (seizures)
  • regularly feeling sick (vomiting)
  • memory problems or changes in personality
  • weakness, vision problems, or speech problems that get worse

See a GP if you have symptoms of a brain tumor that don’t go away. It’s unlikely to be a tumor, but it’s best to be sure.


Treatment for a brain tumor aims to remove as much of it as possible and try to stop it from coming back.

The main treatments are:

  • surgery – a small section of the skull is removed and the tumor is cut out before the piece of the skull is fixed back in place
  • radiotherapy – radiation from an external machine is used to kill cancer cells after surgery
  • chemotherapy – medicine is used to kill cancer cells after surgery, or relieve symptoms if the tumor can’t be removed
  • radiosurgery – lots of tiny beams of radiation are aimed at cancer to kill it if you can’t have surgery
  • carmustine implants (glial wafers) – a new way of giving chemotherapy for some high-grade tumors, where implants are inserted into the brain

Medicines may also be used to relieve symptoms like headaches, seizures, and being sick (vomiting).

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