Brain Tumour

Tumours which affect the nervous system may broadly be described as being either primary (arising from the brain or spinal cord itself or its coverings) or secondary (having spread from some other location). Any tumour is characterised by rapidly growing cells within it. Benign tumours contains cells which retain similar characteristics to those in the tissue the tumour develops from. Malignant or cancerous tumours become more primitive, in general grow more rapidly and have the ability to spread to distant locations.

Brain tumours are isolated within coverings of the nervous system and even malignant tumours spread rarely. Both malignant and benign tumours often first produce symptoms by pressing upon adjacent healthy tissue or disrupting the function in the tissue where they grow. The symptoms which most often bring a brain tumour to attention are:

  • Headache: Headache is a very common symptom and in most cases due to an entirely benign cause. The characteristic headache associated with increased pressure inside the head is-
    • Most severe early in the morning
    • Assosciated with nausea and/or vomitting
    • Associated with other neurological symptoms e.g. dizzyness, eyesight problems
  • Seizures: A first ever seizure should invite imaging of the brain to exclude brain tumour as well as other structural causes.
  • Neuroendocrine symptoms- if the tumour interferes with the interface between brain and the bodies hormonal systems the patient can present with systemic symptoms e.g. weight loss/gain, fatigue, depression, infertility
  • Focal neurological symtoms- visual loss, change in sensation, pain localised to an area without any evident local cause.

The coverings of the nervous system also form part of a barrier- the Blood Brain Barrier- and this barrier limits access for drugs in the blood stream making these tumours particularly resistant to drug therapies. The role of surgery is two-fold. Firstly to provide a sample of the tumour which may definitively identify it and direct further treatment. Secondly if the tumour can be safely removed this may provide the most effective control of its growth if indeed it cannot be removed permanently. Treatment decisions are made in the context of a multidisciplinary meeting where the expertise of neuro-oncologists, radiologists and neuropathologists may be drawn upon.

The menu bar at the top of this section contains links containing information about the commonest nervous system tumours we encounter. If you require further information please do not hesitate to contact us. Certain tumour sub-types should be directed towards specialist services and we will be happy to advise as to appropriate referral.