Your treatment plan
There are a number of different treatments for non-cancerous brain tumours.
Some people only need repeated scans to monitor the tumour and assess any growth. This is usually the case when a tumour is found by chance.
Some people will need surgery, particularly if they have severe or progressive symptoms, but sometimes non-surgical treatments are an option.
A group of different specialists will be involved in your care. They will recommend what they think is the best treatment option for you, but the final decision will be yours.
Before visiting hospital to discuss your treatment options, you may find it useful to write a list of questions you'd like to ask. For example, you may want to find out the advantages and disadvantages of particular treatments.
Surgery is the main treatment for non-cancerous brain tumours. The aim is to remove as much of the tumour as safely as possible without damaging the surrounding brain tissue.
In most cases, a procedure called a craniotomy will be performed. Most operations are carried out under a general anaesthetic, which means you'll be asleep during the procedure.
But in some cases you may need to be awake and responsive, in which case a local anaesthetic will be used.
An area of your scalp will be shaved and a section of skull cut out as a flap to reveal the brain and tumour underneath.
The surgeon will remove the tumour and fix the bone flap back into place with metal screws. The skin is closed with either sutures or staples.
The Cancer Research UK website has more information about brain tumour surgery.
Some tumours are located deep inside the brain and are difficult to remove without damaging surrounding tissue. In these cases, a special type of radiotherapy called stereotactic radiosurgery may be used.
During radiosurgery, tiny beams of high-energy radiation are focused on the tumour to kill the abnormal cells.
Treatment consists of one session, recovery is quick, and you can usually go home on the same day.
Radiosurgery is only available in a few specialised centres in the UK. It's only suitable for some people, based on the characteristics, locations and size of their tumour.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Conventional chemotherapy is occasionally used to shrink non-cancerous brain tumours or kill any cells left behind after surgery.
Radiotherapy involves using controlled doses of high-energy radiation, usually X-rays, to kill the tumour cells.
Chemotherapy is less frequently used to treat non-cancerous brain tumours. It's a powerful medicine that kills tumour cells, and can be given as a tablet, injection or drip.
Side effects of these treatments can include tiredness, hair loss, nausea, and reddening of your skin.
Medicine to treat symptoms
You may also be given medicine to help treat some of your symptoms before or after surgery, including:
- anticonvulsants to prevent epileptic fits (seizures)
- steroids to reduce swelling around the tumour, which can relieve some of your symptoms and make surgery easier
- painkillers to treat headaches
- anti-emetics to prevent vomiting