Brain and Spinal Cancer

Brain and spinal cancer are typically found inside the skull or the spine.

The type of cancer is defined by where it develops. Cancers that begin in the brain are called primary brain cancers. Cancer that begins somewhere else in the body and spreads to the brain is called metastatic brain cancer.

There are over 120 types of brain cancer. The most common primary brain cancer is a glioma, which starts in the glial tissue.


Common symptoms of brain cancer include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Problems with speaking, seeing or moving.
  • Seizures (fits).

Most spinal cancers are metastatic, meaning they have spread there from another part of the body. There are a number of initial tests needed to diagnose brain or spinal cancer. These will include:

  • Discussing symptoms and medical history
  • A physical examination
  • Scans, such as an MRI, CT, bone scan, PET, angiography

If these tests suggest cancer, your consultant may recommend surgery to remove the tumour. If this is too risky at first, a biopsy or smaller operation may be needed to take a sample of the cancer tissue. This can then be analysed to work out where the cancer started and what treatment will be the most effective.

The tissue sample can also be tested to see whether there is anything about it, such as the genes, proteins or enzymes, that will allow specific treatment to target that cancer. If you are diagnosed with brain or spinal cancer, you will have immediate access to world-class specialists and state of the art facilities.

We offer world-class care for anyone with brain or spinal cancer, including:

  • Surgery to remove cancer
  • Radiotherapy
  • Anti-cancer drugs.

We treat every patient on an individual basis. You will have the option to choose what you want, where and when. Our aim is to give everyone the best possible results.

The treatment of brain or spinal cancer depends on:

  • Where the cancer is
  • The type of cancer
  • How big it is and how fast it is growing
  • How advanced it is
  • The patient’s age and general health.

Your consultant will work closely with other specialists in a multidisciplinary team to design a treatment plan for you. Options may include:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Other anti-cancer drugs targeted at particular cancer types

We have a team of highly experienced Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) to support patient and consultant throughout the cancer treatment plan. They will work closely together to co-ordinate your care, and are there to advise and support you every step of the way.

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