Recovering from a malignant brain tumour 

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

Follow-up appointments

Malignant brain tumours often grow back after treatment, so regular follow-up appointments will 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 may 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 find out 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 you could have an epileptic fit while in the water.

Sex and pregnancy

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

Emotional 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.

Social support

If you have been diagnosed with a brain tumour, your treatment and medical care will probably be the first thing on your mind. But there are other aspects of your life to think about and it is important to know exactly what kind of assistance is available and where you can get it.

If you are finding it hard to cope with day-to-day life, talk about your needs with your doctor or nurse, who will refer you to a social worker. Your social worker will assess exactly the kind of help you need.

Help you may need might include:

  • a care attendant, who can help with housework, dressing and washing, or even just keep you company and give your carer a break
  • a "meals on wheels" service
  • income support, disability living allowance or attendance allowance
  • equipment and adaptations for your home

For more information about what help you might need and how you can access it, see the care and support guide.

Page last reviewed: 19/03/2015

Next review due: 19/03/2017