About types of brain tumour

Brain tumours are often named after the cell they develop from, or the part of the brain they start in. 

Brain tumours can be low-grade or high grade. We have more information about different grades of brain tumour.

We have separate information about tumours that start somewhere else in the body and spread to the brain (secondary brain tumours).


More than half of all brain tumours are gliomas. They develop from glial cells which are the supporting cells in the brain or spinal cord.

Gliomas can be different grades. Some are slow growing tumours. Others grow more quickly (high grade). A type of astrocytoma called a glioblastoma multiforme is a fast growing tumour.

Different types of glioma are also named after the type of glial cell they start in:

  • Astrocytomas are the most common glioma. They start in cells called astroctyes. Different grades of astrocytoma have different names. For example, a grade 4 astrocytoma is called a glioblastoma multiforme.
  • An oligodendroglioma develops from a glial cell called an oligodendrocyte.
  • An ependymoma develops from a glial cell called an ependymal cell. They are a rare type of glioma.


Nearly a quarter (25%) of all brain tumours are meningiomas. These tumours start in the tissues that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord (the meninges). Meningiomas can be grade 1 to 3. They are usually low-grade, slow-growing tumours, but a small number are faster growing.

Acoustic neuroma

Acoustic neuromas (also called vestibular schwannomas) are tumours that usually grow slowly. They develop from the cranial nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, called the acoustic nerve. People with a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) have a higher risk of developing this type of tumour.

Primary central nervous system lymphoma

A lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s immune system and helps fight infection. Lymphomas that start in the brain or spinal cord are called primary central nervous system lymphomas (PCNSL) They are rare and usually grow quickly.


Haemangioblastoma is a rare, slow-growing tumour that usually affects the cerebellum and sometimes the brain stem or spinal cord. It develops from the cells lining the blood vessels in the brain.


Medulloblastoma is a high-grade tumour that develops in the cerebellum. This tumour is rare in adults but is one of the most common brain tumours in children.

Pineal region tumour

These rare tumours affect the pineal gland in the centre of the brain. There are different types of pineal region tumours. The most common one is a germ cell tumour.

Pituitary tumour

The most common tumours of the pituitary gland are adenomas. They are slow-growing tumours that can affect how the pituitary gland produces hormones.

Craniopharyngioma tumour

Craniopharyngioma tumours affect an area above the pituitary gland and near the cranial nerve from the eyes to the brain. They are rare and usually slow-growing.

Spinal cord tumour

Several types of tumour can start in the spinal cord, but this is rare. These tumours usually cause problems by pressing on the nerves of the spinal cord.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 October 2019
Next review: 01 October 2021

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

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