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Brain tumour, benign (non-cancerous) Content Supplied by NHS Choices
Introduction

A benign (non-cancerous) brain tumour is a mass of cells that grows slowly in the brain. It usually stays in one place and does not spread.

Generally, brain tumours are graded from 1 to 4, according to their behaviour, such as how fast they grow and how likely they are to grow back after treatment. Grade 1 tumours are the least aggressive and grade 4 are the most harmful and cancerous. Cancerous tumours are described as "malignant".

Low-grade brain tumours - grades 1 or 2 - tend to be slow-growing and unlikely to spread, so they're usually classed as benign. These tumours aren't cancerous and can often be successfully treated. However, they are still serious and can be life-threatening.

These pages focus on low-grade brain tumours. For information on grade 3 or 4 brain tumours, see the separate topic on high-grade (malignant) tumours.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of a low-grade or benign brain tumour depend on how big it is and where it is in the brain. Some slow-growing tumours may not cause any symptoms at first.

Common symptoms include:

  • severe, persistent headaches
  • seizures (fits)
  • persistent nausea, vomiting and drowsiness
  • mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
  • progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, vision problems, or speech problems

See your GP if you have persistent symptoms of a brain tumour. While it's unlikely to be a tumour, it's best to be sure by getting a proper diagnosis.

Read more about the symptoms of benign brain tumours and diagnosing benign brain tumours.

Types of benign brain tumour

There are many different types of benign brain tumours, depending on the type of brain cells they have grown from. Examples include:

  • gliomas - tumours of the glial tissue, which binds nerve cells and fibres together
  • meningiomas - tumours of the membranes that cover the brain
  • acoustic neuromas - tumours in the acoustic nerve, which helps to control hearing and balance
  • craniopharyngiomas - tumours near the base of the brain that are most often diagnosed in children, teenagers and young adults
  • haemangioblastomas - tumours of the brain's blood vessels
  • pituitary adenomas - tumours of the pituitary gland (the pea-sized gland below the brain)

Who is affected

Brain tumours can affect people of any age, including children, although they tend to be more common in older adults.

About 4,300 people are diagnosed with benign brain tumours in the UK each year. The majority of these are low-grade gliomas.

In most cases, it's not clear why a person has developed a brain tumour, although it's thought that certain genetic conditions and previous radiotherapy treatment to the head may increase the risk of one developing.

Read more about the causes of benign brain tumours.

How benign brain tumours are treated

Treatment for benign brain tumours depends on the type and location of the tumour, and your outlook will depend on whether the tumour grows back and whether it mutates (changes).

Many benign brain tumours can be surgically removed and don't come back once they have been removed. However, some tumours can grow back or may become cancerous.

If surgery is not suitable, or it's not possible to remove the entire tumour, you may need other treatments such as radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy to destroy the abnormal cells in the brain.

Read more about treating a benign brain tumour.

Recovering from a benign brain tumour

After treatment, you may be left with some persistent problems, such as seizures, difficulty walking, or speech problems. In these cases, you may need supportive treatment to help you recover from or adapt to these problems.

Many people are eventually able to return to most of their normal activities, including sports and work, but this can take time.

You can be referred to a counsellor if you want to talk about the emotional aspects of your diagnosis and treatment. There are also many organisations that can provide information and support, such as The Brain Tumour Charity and Brain Tumour Research.

Read more about recovering from treatment for a benign brain tumour.


Symptoms of a benign brain tumour

The symptoms of a benign or low-grade brain tumour depend on its size and where it is in the brain. Some slow-growing tumours may not cause any symptoms at first.

When symptoms do occur, it's because the brain tumour is putting pressure on the brain and/or preventing a specific area of the brain from functioning properly.

Signs of increased pressure on the brain

Common symptoms of increased pressure within the skull include:

  • severe, persistent headaches - which are typically worse in the morning or when bending over or coughing
  • persistent nausea and vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • vision problems - such as blurred vision, floaters and loss of vision that may come and go
  • seizures (fits) - which may affect the whole body or just involve a twitch in one area

Symptoms caused by the position of the tumour

Different areas of the brain control different functions, so the symptoms caused by a brain tumour will depend on where the tumour is located. For example, a tumour affecting:

  • the frontal lobe may cause changes in personality, weakness in one side of the body and loss of smell
  • the temporal lobe may cause forgetfulness, language problems (aphasia) and seizures
  • the parietal lobe may cause aphasia and numbness or weakness in one side of the body
  • the occipital lobe may cause loss of vision on one side
  • the cerebellum may cause a loss of co-ordination, flickering of the eyes, vomiting and a stiff neck
  • the brain stem may cause unsteadiness and difficulty walking, facial weakness, double vision and difficulty speaking (dysarthria) and swallowing (dysphagia)

When to see your GP

It's important to see a doctor if you develop persistent and worrying symptoms that may be caused by a brain tumour. While it's unlikely that you have a tumour, it's best to be sure by getting a proper diagnosis.

If your GP is unable to identify a more likely cause of your symptoms, they may refer you to a neurologist for further assessment and tests, such as a brain scan.

Read more about diagnosing benign brain tumours.


Causes of a benign brain tumour

The cause of most benign brain tumours is unknown, although a small number of cases have been linked to certain genes or previous cancer treatment.

Who's most at risk

Some of the things that can increase your risk of benign brain tumours are outlined below.

Age

Brain tumours affect people of all ages, including children, but the risk tends to increase as you get older. Most tumours affect people over 50 years of age.

Family history

People with a family history of brain tumours may be at a slightly increased risk of developing a brain tumour themselves.

Radiotherapy

If your brain is exposed to radiation during radiotherapy, your risk of developing certain types of benign brain tumour later on is increased.

Genetic conditions

Some genetic conditions can increase your risk of a benign brain tumour, such as:

Unlike most benign brain tumours, tumours associated with these conditions tend to develop in childhood or early adulthood.

Can mobile phones cause brain tumours

There have been reports in the media about a possible connection between brain tumours and the radiofrequency (RF) energy emitted by mobile phones. RF energy produces heat, which can increase body temperature and damage tissue exposed to it.

However, it's thought that the amount of RF energy people are exposed to from mobile phones is too low to produce significant tissue heating or an increase in body temperature.

Research is underway to establish whether RF energy has any long-term health effects, but the balance of evidence currently available suggests it's unlikely that mobile phones cause health problems.

Read about mobile phone safety for more information.


Diagnosing a benign brain tumour

See your GP if you develop any of the symptoms of a benign 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 (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.


Treating a benign brain tumour

Benign tumours can often be successfully removed with surgery and don't normally come back.

However, some slow-growing tumours do grow back after treatment and have the potential to change into high-grade or malignant (cancerous) tumours. These are fast-growing and likely to spread.

You'll usually have follow-up appointments after your treatment to monitor your condition and look for signs of the tumour recurring. Read more about recovering from a benign brain tumour.

Your treatment plan

There are a number of different treatments for benign brain tumours. Most people will need to have surgery, but sometimes non-surgical treatments will be an option.

A group of different specialists called a multidisciplinary team (MDT) will be involved in your care and 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 that you'd like to ask. For example, you may want to find out the advantages and disadvantages of particular treatments.

Surgery

The main treatment for benign brain tumours is surgery. This will aim to remove as much of the tumour as possible, without damaging the surrounding brain tissue.

In most cases, a procedure called a craniotomy will be carried out. You will be given a general anaesthetic so you are asleep while the operation is carried out. An area of your scalp will be shaved and a section of the skull is cut out as a flap to reveal the brain and tumour underneath.

The surgeon can then remove the tumour and secure the flap of skull back in place with metal screws.

If it's not possible to remove the entire tumour, you may need further treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy (see below).

Radiosurgery

Some tumours are situated deep inside the brain and are difficult to remove without damaging surrounding tissue. In such cases, a special type of radiotherapy called stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) may be used.

During radiosurgery, several beams of high-energy radiation are focused on the tumour to kill the abnormal cells. The treatment is completed in one session, recovery is quick and an overnight stay in hospital is not usually required.

Radiosurgery is only available in a few specialised centres in the UK and is only suitable for some patients, based on the characteristics of their tumour.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Occasionally, chemotherapy and conventional radiotherapy may be used to shrink a benign tumour or kill any cells left behind after surgery.

Chemotherapy uses medication to kill tumour cells and can be given as a tablet, an injection or a drip. Radiotherapy involves controlled doses of high-energy radiation, usually X-rays, to kill the tumour cells.

Side effects of these treatments can include tiredness, hair loss, nausea and reddening of your skin.

Read more about the side effects of radiotherapy and side effects of chemotherapy.

Medication to treat symptoms

You may also be given medication to help treat some of your symptoms before or after surgery, including:

  • anticonvulsants to prevent seizures (fits)
  • corticosteroids 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

Recovering from a benign brain tumour

After being treated for a brain tumour, you may need additional care to monitor and treat any further problems.

Follow-up appointments

Benign brain tumours can sometimes grow back after treatment, so regular follow-up appointments will often be recommended to look for signs that this may have happened.

These appointments may include a discussion of any worrying new symptoms you experience, a physical examination, and occasionally a brain scan.

You will usually have follow-up appointments at least every few months to begin with, but they will probably be needed less frequently over time if no problems develop.

Supportive treatment

Problems caused by a brain tumour don't always resolve as soon as the tumour is removed or treated. For example, some people have persistent weakness, seizures (fits), difficulty walking and speech problems.

In these cases, you may need extra support to help you overcome or adapt to any problems you have. This may include therapies such as:

  • physiotherapy - to help with any movement problems you have
  • occupational therapy - to identify any problems you're having with daily activities and arrange for any equipment or alterations to your home that may help
  • speech therapy - to help you with any communication or swallowing problems

Some people may also need to continue taking medication for seizures for a few months or more after their tumour has been treated or removed.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has made recommendations on the standards of care that brain tumour patients should receive. For more information, see the service guidance for improving outcomes for people with brain and other central nervous system tumours.

Driving and travelling

You may not be allowed to drive for a while after you've had a brain tumour. This will depend on things such as the type of brain tumour you had, where it was in the brain, and what symptoms you have.

If you are required to give up your driving licence and notify the DVLA, they will speak to your GP or specialist to determine when you can drive again.

With up-to-date scans and advice from your medical team, you may be allowed to drive again once an agreed period has passed and you have successfully completed a medical test to determine your ability to control a vehicle.

You can read more about brain tumours and driving on the Cancer Research UK website.

Flying is usually possible from three months after treatment.

Sports and activities

After you have been treated for a brain tumour, you must permanently avoid contact sports, such as rugby and boxing. You can start other activities again, with the agreement of your doctor, once you have recovered.

Swimming unsupervised is not recommended for around one year after treatment, as there is a risk that you could have an epileptic fit while in the water.

Sex and pregnancy

It's safe to have sex after treatment for a benign brain tumour.

Women may be advised to avoid becoming pregnant for six months or more after treatment. If you're planning to become pregnant, you should discuss this with your medical team.

Going back to work

You'll usually tire more easily following treatment for a brain tumour.

You may wish to return to work and normal life as soon as possible, but it's probably a good idea to return part-time to begin with and only go back full-time when you feel able to.

If you've experienced seizures, you shouldn't work with machinery or at heights.

Help and support

A brain tumour is often life-changing. You may feel angry, frightened and emotionally drained. If it will help, your doctor or specialist may be able to refer you to a social worker and counsellor for help with the practical and emotional aspects of your diagnosis.

There are also many organisations that can provide information and support, such as The Brain Tumour Charity and Brain Tumour Research.


'Having a brain tumour makes you open your eyes more and appreciate life'

Melanie Hennessy was diagnosed with a brain tumour after years of experiencing headaches. She tells her story.

"I had always suffered with headaches for as long as I can remember, but it was probably about eight years. I did seek help, but the doctors weren't interested. The headaches didn't stop me working, but in the end I was becoming so exhausted and was really struggling, so my husband persuaded me to go back to the GP, who was still not concerned.

"Then I fell pregnant naturally, which was amazing, considering that we had already gone through four lots of IVF trying to conceive. All the way through my pregnancy, the headaches were really extreme, but my midwife reassured me it was just the hormones.

"I was booked in for a caesarean because I had a low-lying placenta, but I was admitted into the maternity ward two weeks before the planned date. It was at this time that I remember suffering with toothache, then eye ache or a headache, but not continuously or altogether. My husband, Wayne, noticed that one side of my head looked swollen.

"After my caesarean, I really started to feel very ill, with a terrible headache and pain in my eye. A few days later I went to the GP, because by then the pain in my eyes and eyeballs was excruciating. I was told to see an optician and was also given the same pain relief tablets as I had been given in hospital.

"A couple of days later I went back again to the doctor because I was only talking out of one side of my face. He asked me whether I thought I had suffered a stroke and told me that he thought it was Bell's palsy. The hospital confirmed this diagnosis and gave me steroids. For 10 days I felt so much better, but as soon as I came off the medication the headaches returned with a vengeance.

"Finally I saw a consultant who, concerned that my eyesight hadn't come back properly following treatment for Bell's palsy, referred me to an eye clinic.

"When I finally had a scan, it revealed quite a large tumour, as well as a smaller one. It was such a shock.

"It turned out that I had a grade I meningioma, which stretched from my eye, down my neck, and I had probably had it for at least 10 years. It explained why I had had difficulties getting pregnant, because the tumour was pushed up against my pituitary gland. I was told I wouldn't be able to have any more children, because the tumour would grow again.

"My baby, Daisy, was just six months old when I had my operation in March 2010. My health visitor had to push for me to have my surgery, as I was not at all well and losing sight. I was in surgery from 8am until 7pm. Everything went wrong and there was a lot of bleeding. Afterwards, I realised that I couldn't see at all out of my left eye. The doctors can't understand why, but I don't blame them. I lost my sight in one eye, but that's better than losing my life. It's a small price to pay.

"After surgery, I had to learn to walk and talk again. My husband had to dress me and feed me. I then underwent tomotherapy - a new kind of radiotherapy - every day for six weeks. I was one of the first to use the new machine. The consultant oncologist explained that the tumour was heading over to the other side of my face, and he was concerned that I might lose the sight in the other eye. He told me that the tumour was like an octopus, wrapping around everything, and that this new form of radiotherapy was more accurate.

"The radiotherapy really knocked me out and I just had to sleep. We went to live with my husband's Dad and new partner for three months (he had lost his mum to cancer) because Wayne had to go back to work, we had a young baby and I was pretty helpless. Daisy went to a child-minder, while I continued to feel really sick and lost some of my hair. I found this very tough - a woman's hair is so important.

"By September, I was so desperate. I thought: "I can't do this any more - I would rather be dead." It was so out of character for me, because I am a very independent, confident and outgoing person. My GP gave me medication, which I am still on. I tried to come off the tablets, but I still have days when I can't go out of the house, but mostly I am back to my normal crazy self.

"My husband has been my rock - we only got married in June 2011. I knew when he fed, washed and dressed me that I had a good one!

"It's been a really tough time, but I have met some wonderful people through having my tumour and I am very lucky. I am alive, aren't I I look at my daughter every day and I just feel so lucky to have her.

"Having a brain tumour makes you open your eyes more and appreciate life. You have to go through the bad stuff to appreciate the good."

This case history was provided by Brain Tumour Research.


'We wake up every day thinking how lucky we are'

Wayne Chessum was diagnosed with a brain tumour after becoming ill when he returned from a family holiday. Wayne's wife Debbie tells the story of his diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

"It was in January 2008 when we had just returned from a holiday in Florida that Wayne first started to feel poorly. He thought it was a cold. Wayne went to the GP a number of times continuing to feel unwell and was treated for an inner-ear infection.

"Then he spent the whole of one weekend in bed and didn't want to eat or talk. We visited the GP, who was sufficiently concerned to refer him to Grantham & District Hospital, where Wayne had a CT scan. They found a tumour in his brain. This was a massive shock to us; however, Wayne felt relief that they had found something wrong, as he had been feeling so unwell for a couple of months.

"Wayne was transferred to Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, which specialises in neurosurgery, where he underwent a craniotomy to remove what was diagnosed as a benign haemangioblastoma in his cerebellum. While Wayne was in hospital, he didn't see his children for seven days. We had left our young daughter Hollie with her grandparents when Wayne was referred for the CT scan.

"The following year, we had another devastating blow, when a scan revealed that there was some regrowth of the tumour - it is pretty much impossible for surgeons to be absolutely certain whether they have managed to remove all traces of a brain tumour, particularly when trying to access an area as deep into the brain as the cerebellum.

"Wayne was recommended for stereotactic radiosurgery at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield. After the radiosurgery, we were told it was a waiting game. The procedure results in the tumour swelling initially, and we were told that this would take around two years to settle down. In fact it wasn't until three years later, in October 2012, that the neurosurgeon at Nottingham was able to tell Wayne that his tumour was static, with no regrowth - the radiosurgery which took place in Sheffield appears to have been a success, but he will continue to have MRI scans every 12 months. We now hope to find that subsequent scans will show the tumour reducing.

"Since Wayne's diagnosis and craniotomy, he has had to retire from his job as a prison officer and he is now self-employed doing painting, decorating, kitchen and bathroom fitting, tiling, fence building and many other jobs. He struggles with balance and also with co-ordination in the dark, but despite these difficulties, he has succeeded in getting back to playing cricket - one of the biggest loves of his life!

"Before Wayne was diagnosed, he was extremely fit and he believes this dramatically assisted the speed of his recovery. Wayne has always been an enthusiastic sportsman and played all sports. He maintains a high level of fitness to give himself the best chance of recovering from further treatment if required.

"Until Wayne discovered he had a brain tumour, we were oblivious to how common this condition was and have since come across two other cases just in our village: one of a boy (who is now a teenager); and another, of a lady who has since passed away.

"We never realised how prevalent brain tumours were or how devastating it is when you hear that a loved one has been diagnosed with this condition. His neurosurgeon told Wayne that if the haemangioblastoma had been detected 10 years earlier, then Wayne would probably no longer be with us. Fortunately, medical understanding has moved on a little. With more investment in research, who knows where we could be in terms of treatments for brain tumours in 10 years

"Wayne now tries to live life to the full and enjoy every day; he commented that it is not all bad news - since his surgery, he no longer suffers from the effects of hangovers if he happens to overindulge! We wake up every day thinking how lucky we are that we are all still here, and every time we go to the hospital we thank the surgeons for what they have done for Wayne."

This case history was provided by Brain Tumour Research.


'We found Maisie’s tumour before it was too late'

Maisie Dury was diagnosed with a brain tumour when she was just two years old. Her parents, Vanessa and Ollie, describe their experience of Maisie's diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

"When our lively, loving, mischievous daughter turned two-and-a-half in 2007, we noticed that she sometimes looked a bit vacant. We weren't unduly worried, but mentioned it to our doctor, who suggested it could be a form of epilepsy. She referred us to a specialist.

"Over the next few weeks, Maisie began to have seizures, during which she would shake and appear to lose control. The hospital told us that Maisie's condition was not urgent and we would be seen by a specialist in three months.

"A parent's instinct told us that something was more seriously wrong with our little girl, so we pleaded for her to be seen earlier.

"A neurologist at St George's Hospital, in south west London, saw Maisie a few weeks later. She was diagnosed with a common form of epilepsy and given medication for the seizures. We were relieved. We had a diagnosis and could help her. We were given leaflets and information, and felt better. Although we were concerned about the epilepsy, her condition wasn't life-threatening. How wrong we were.

"Fortunately, the neurologist suggested that Maisie had a routine MRI scan (which is not always the case). We went to the appointment on a Monday morning in June 2007 expecting to be home by lunchtime. That afternoon she was admitted to a children's neurology ward."

Maisie had a brain tumour.

"Words can't describe the devastation we felt. The following day we were told Maisie had a tumour in the centre of her brain - an unusual position. We were in complete shock. There were no leaflets to read and we didn't know what would happen to her. Maisie's surgeon was amazing. He took time to explain everything and went ahead with the operation the next day - the longest day of our lives.

"Maisie has recovered well. Fortunately, the tumour was 'low grade' and because it was discovered in time, it could be successfully removed by the surgery. But Maisie is still young and the effects of brain surgery are long-lasting. She had a central neurocytoma, which is a rare tumour among children, and because so little is known about brain tumours in general, the future is uncertain.

"Maisie continues to be closely monitored with regular scans. But we were lucky for many reasons - from having a doctor who referred Maisie immediately, to securing a neurologist's appointment early and getting an MRI scan quickly. We found Maisie's tumour before it was too late.

"We also had amazing support from the surgeons, neurologists and hospital child psychologists who help us cope with the effects of Maisie's surgery and treatment.

"As a parent, you never expect your child to get a brain tumour, but it can happen. There are so many children out there who do not get diagnosed early enough and whose symptoms are often missed. More children die of brain tumours in the UK than from any other cancer. We think of those children and families every day and are working to support the brain tumour cause in whatever way we can."

This case history was provided by Brain Tumour Research.


'It’s hard, but I’ve had to learn to live with it'

In September 2003, Joanne Glazier Reitano was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. She talks about how living with a brain tumour has affected her.

"The first sign I had that things weren't right was when I kept 'zoning out'. At first, I wasn't really aware that it was happening - but it was like I was just switching off from the real world. The incidents probably only lasted a minute, and I wouldn't lose consciousness, but I'd 'come back' to the real world and would have completely lost track of what I was saying and doing.

"I put it down to stress. There had been lots of redundancies at work and it had generally been an incredibly stressful year. But I began to be quite concerned when I 'zoned out' in the middle of a presentation I was giving. It was obvious to everyone who was there that something was wrong.

"I went to my GP about it and he diagnosed stress, so I didn't worry too much and got on with my normal life.

"By the following Easter, I wasn't feeling well at all. I'd started a new job, had no energy and was taking lots of antidepressants. I was putting on weight rapidly and wasn't feeling at all good.

"I was also having a number of mysterious accidents. I banged my head badly when I was at work and am not sure exactly how I did it. Once I took the dog for a walk, and when I came back I was covered in mud. I still don't know how that happened. I was having memory problems, too.

"My doctor referred me for an MRI scan and I was also sent to London for an ECG. While I was waiting for the results, I went away on holiday. But I was grumpy, didn't want to join in with anything and just didn't behave like I usually did.

"On my return, there was a letter waiting for me that told me I had epilepsy. It was such a shock. I was devastated. I made an appointment with my consultant and had a huge list of questions to ask him, but when I got there, he said, 'Jo, epilepsy is the least of your problems. You have a brain tumour.'

"I didn't know what to think. It was such a shock to hear those words. There was just this whole mess of thoughts in my head. The consultant couldn't tell me much, as he didn't know if the tumour was benign or malignant. Two weeks later, I was sent for a biopsy.

"I was in hospital for a week and was a complete wreck. They discovered that I had a slow-growing grade 2 oligodendroglioma tumour. But because the tumour was deep-set in the left temporal lobe, it was too dangerous to operate on.

"It was a very delicate period. I hadn't been told where to go for support and I was very down and angry. Although it was good news that it was slow-growing, I just didn't want to deal with it. I didn't want it in my head and I didn't want to be in this situation. Eventually, I was put in touch with a support group and that did help. It made me realise that I wasn't the only one in this situation and that did give me some comfort.

"I started having radiotherapy three months after my diagnosis. I had it five days a week for six weeks. I was warned that I'd lose all my hair, which I did, and I was left with a circle of hair at the top of my head. But the radiotherapy helped. After I'd finished the course, I got the news that the tumour was lying dormant.

"In September 2006, a scan showed that the tumour was growing again. I went into shock when I heard the news.

"I started chemotherapy in October 2006 and had six cycles. I had 11 days of chemo with a four- to five-week gap in between. I felt so ill while it was going on. But while I was in the middle of chemotherapy, I got married to my boyfriend Salvo. Afterwards, my scan showed that the tumour was dormant again.

"My life will definitely be shortened by this tumour, but I'm living it to the best of my ability. I have bad pains that move around my body and my balance is quite badly affected. I fall over really easily.

"My writing and spelling is appalling these days and my memory is ruined, because the tumour is pressing against that part of my brain. My reading is also affected. I get stuck on certain words, just like a child.

"But I have to be positive. It's hard, but I've had to learn to live with it. I didn't, and still don't, want to be defeated by it. I have a very loving and supportive husband and family. I also discovered that keeping my mind occupied has really helped and I've developed a strong interest in gardening, which I find very therapeutic.

"Practical help has been invaluable. A friend filled in all my benefit forms for me and I've nominated her to have power of attorney, so she always deals with that side of things. When you have something wrong with your brain, you really need that kind of help."

This case history was provided by The Brain Tumour Charity.

'Since my illness, life has changed for me'

Nicole Witts was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour after experiencing a wide range of problems for over six months.

"I first felt something was wrong in August 2007, when I was working as an area manager for a beauty firm. I visited my local GP because I was suffering from hearing loss. A grommet was fitted, but this did not improve my hearing for long.

"By October, I could not concentrate properly on my job, and I could hear whining noises in my head.

"After Christmas 2007, I phoned the GP about the noises in my head. I was so upset. I thought I was going mad.

"In February 2008, I had just carried my new baby daughter, Ellen, downstairs when I suffered a major fit and was rushed to hospital. Brain scans revealed a massive tumour the size of an orange on the right side of my brain. I remember being terrified and praying for my life.

"Once the tumour was diagnosed as benign, I still needed a frightening nine-hour operation to remove it, which could have threatened my speech. I realise that I was one of the lucky ones: my tumour was not only benign, but it could be removed by surgeons.

"I think of myself as a fairly upbeat, bubbly sort of person. I have been married to Gary for eight years and we have two gorgeous girls. Up to this event, we felt we lived fairly normal lives, but life has changed for me now. I have epilepsy and can no longer cook, drive alone or bath baby Ellen or her sister."

This real story was provided by Brain Tumour Research.


 
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