Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

A brain tumour is a lump of abnormal cells growing in your brain.

A brain tumour is a lump of abnormal cells growing in your brain.
beginning of content

Brain tumours

A brain tumour is a lump of abnormal cells growing in your brain. Your brain controls parts of your body and its functions and produces your thoughts. A tumour in your brain can affect these functions.

What is a brain tumour?

When cells grow abnormally they may form a lump called a tumour. Tumours can be benign or malignant.

A benign tumour grows and stays in one place. It can’t spread to another part of your body.

Benign tumours are not cancerous. But a benign brain tumour may cause damage just by being there and pressing on your brain. This can be life-threatening, or affect other parts of your body, and may need urgent treatment.

A malignant tumour is cancerous. It can spread to other areas of your brain, or your body. It can also be called brain cancer. Some benign tumours can become malignant.

Types of brain tumours

Brain tumours can either be ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’. A primary brain tumour has started in the brain. A secondary brain tumour is a cancer from elsewhere in the body that has spread or ‘metastasised’ to the brain.

There are many types of brain tumours. Together with tumours of the spinal cord, they are collectively called central nervous system (CNS) tumours.

Some common types of primary brain tumours are gliomas (including astrocytomas and glioblastomas), meningiomas and medulloblastomas.

Most types of cancer can spread to the brain, forming a secondary brain tumours. The most common types are melanoma, bowel, breast, kidney and lung cancers.

Risk factors for brain tumours

It’s not known what causes brain tumours.

Occasionally people develop brain tumours because of genetic factors, or because they’ve been exposed to radiation.

Research is investigating whether certain genes are important risk factors for brain tumours. Read more about brain tumour research at Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

How common is brain cancer?

Almost half of all brain and spinal cord tumours are malignant.

Each year, about 1,400 people are diagnosed with malignant brain tumours in Australia, including about 100 children. About 1,200 Australians die of it each year.

Last reviewed: June 2015

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 593 results

Diagnosis of Brain Tumour - Brain Foundation

Diagnosis of Brain Tumour The symptoms of brain cancer vary widely and depend on what part of the brain the tumour is pressing on. Sometimes, when a tumour develops slowly, the symptoms develop so gradually that they are scarcely noticed. Symptoms of brain tumours As a tumour grows inside the skull it presses on the... Read more

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Brain Tumour (Astrocytoma of the Brain) | myVMC

Brain tumours are responsible for as much as 20% of childhood cancers. Most tumours arising within the brain start in brain cells called astrocytes, resulting in astrocytomas.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Brain tumour (Glioma of the Brain) | myVMC

Brain tumour may be of the Glioma type and usually arise from the glial cells which support the nerve cells. The brain is the control centre for the body. It is comprised of millions of individual nerve cells which are all interconnected. It is located at the top of the spinal cord and is encased in hard bone. Individual nerves emerge from the brain to work the muscles and organs contained within the head. These are called cranial nerves.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Brain Foundation | Brain Tumour / Cancer

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Brain tumours, depression and anxiety

Read more on beyondblue website

Brain tumours, anxiety and depression

Read more on beyondblue website

If Your Child Has A Brain Tumour - Brain Foundation

If Your Child Has A Brain Tumour Although brain tumours occur considerably less often in children than in adults, they are still the second most common cancer in children (after leukaemia). While the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours in children are much the same as in adults, childrens brain tumours obviously pose a... Read more

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Brain cancer - NT.GOV.AU

Early detection, symptoms and treatment for brain tumours.

Read more on NT Health website

Brain Cancer & Tumours - Information, Treatment & Support - CanTeen

Brain tumours are a range of conditions that affect different parts of the brain and people of all ages. Learn more about causes and treatment with CanTeen.

Read more on CanTeen website

Treatment - Brain Foundation

Treatment Malignant brain tumours (brain cancers) may be treated with surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or steroid therapy. These treatments may be used alone or in combination. The choice of treatment will depend on: The actual brain tumour: What type it is, whether it is a primary or secondary tumour, its size, and exactly where it is... Read more

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo