Treatment overview

Treatments used for brain tumours include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. You may have a combination of treatments. Your treatment depends on the size and position of the tumour as well as the type, grade and any biomarkers. It also depends on the symptoms you have.

Treating low-grade (grade 1 and 2) tumours

If the tumour isn’t causing you problems, your doctor may suggest delaying treatment until it is needed. Your doctor will arrange for you to have regular scans to check the tumour and will monitor your symptoms carefully.

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

Some types of tumour have a higher risk of coming back after surgery or of developing into high-grade tumours. To reduce this risk, your doctor may advise you to have further treatment after surgery.

Treating high-grade (grade 3 and 4) tumours

High-grade tumours grow more quickly and 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 is not possible, the main treatment is usually radiotherapy. This could be with or without chemotherapy. Some people may have chemotherapy alone as their main treatment.

Treating rarer tumours

Some rare brain tumours are treated in other ways. For example, germinomas or lymphomas are usually treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. You may have a biopsy to diagnose these tumours, but you are not likely to need surgery to remove them. You can find more information about different types of brain tumour.

Treating symptoms

You may need treatment to control symptoms. This can include drugs called anti-convulsants to prevent seizures and steroids to reduce swelling around the tumour. Or you may have surgery to reduce pressure inside the skull.

When you are diagnosed, you may need treatment for symptoms straight away. You may also need your symptoms managed during your main treatment or for a while after it has finished. This depends on the type of tumour and treatment you have.

Sometimes a brain tumour can’t be removed or controlled anymore. In this situation, you can still have treatment for any symptoms. You will have supportive care (sometimes called palliative care) from a specialist doctor or nurse who is an expert at managing symptoms.

We have more information about coping with advanced cancer. If you would like to talk about this, give us a call us on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to Treating

Making treatment decisions

Your doctors may tell you there are different options for your treatment. It can be difficult to make a decision, but information and support will help.

Surgery

You might be offered surgery to remove all or part of your brain tumour.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy targets cancer cells in a specific area of the body.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to treat cancer. It can be given in different ways and will be carefully planned.

Supportive and other treatments

Your specialist may give you steroids or anticonvulsants to deal with your symptoms. Always take your medication as prescribed.

Clinical trials

Many people are offered a trial as part of treatment. Find out more to help you decide if a trial is right for you.

After treatment

You may take some time to recover after treatment for a brain tumour. You might also find you need to get used to coping with different side effects.