Treatment overview

Types of treatment for brain tumours

Treatments used for brain tumours include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Sometimes a combination of treatments are used. Treatment depends on the type, size, position and grade of the tumour. It also depends on the symptoms you have.

Your specialist doctor and nurse will advise you on the best treatment options for your situation. You and your doctor can then decide on the most appropriate treatment plan for you.

Treating low-grade or benign tumours

If the tumour isn’t causing you problems, your doctor may suggest you have regular scans to monitor it. This is to watch for any signs that it is changing and needs treatment.

You may have surgery to remove the tumour. If surgery isn’t possible because of where the tumour is in the brain, or if it can’t be completely removed, you may have radiotherapy.

Sometimes doctors may advise further treatment after surgery to reduce the risk of the tumour coming back. This is usually with certain grade 2 tumours that have a higher risk of coming back. Or if there’s a risk of it developing into a faster-growing tumour.

How the tumour cells look under the microscope and information from other laboratory tests can help tell your specialist how these tumours might behave. They can advise you if further treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy might be helpful. Your specialist doctor or nurse will talk about this with you.

Treating high-grade tumours

High-grade (grades 3 and 4) tumours grow more quickly, so they need to be treated straight away. If surgery is possible, the surgeon will remove as much of the tumour as they can. After surgery, you will usually have radiotherapy or chemotherapy, or both.

When surgery isn’t possible, the main treatment is usually radiotherapy. This could be with or without chemotherapy. You can also have chemotherapy on its own.

Some rare brain tumours, such as germinomas or lymphomas, are treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy instead of surgery.

Back to Understanding your diagnosis

Just been diagnosed

If you’ve just been diagnosed with a brain tumour, there are many ways we can help you.

Grading brain tumours

You will have tests to find out as much as possible about the tumour. This helps your doctors to decide which treatment is suitable for you.

My Cancer Treatment

Macmillan is supporting a new online tool to help you make decisions about your treatment and care.