Brain tumour, malignant (cancerous)

If you develop the symptoms of a brain tumour, such as a persistent and severe headache, see your GP.

See your GP if you develop any of the symptoms of a malignant brain tumour, such as a persistent and severe headache.

Your GP will examine you and ask about your symptoms. They may also carry out a simple neurological examination (see below).

If they suspect you may have a tumour, or they are not sure what's causing your symptoms, you'll probably be referred to a neurologist (brain and nerve specialist).

Neurological examination

Your GP or neurologist may carry out a test of your nervous system, called a neurological examination, to look for problems associated with a brain tumour.

This may involve tests of your:

  • hand and limb strength
  • reflexes, such as your knee-jerk reflex
  • hearing and vision
  • skin sensitivity
  • balance and co-ordination
  • memory and mental agility (using simple questions or arithmetic)

A neurologist may also recommend one or more of the tests mentioned below.

Further tests

Other tests you may have to help diagnose a brain tumour include:

If a tumour is suspected, a biopsy (surgical removal of a small piece of tissue) may be taken to establish the type of tumour and the most effective treatment.

Under anaesthetic, a small hole (known as a burr hole) is made in the skull and a very fine needle is used to obtain a sample of tumour tissue. You'll probably need to stay in hospital for a few days afterwards.


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