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.


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).


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

Page last reviewed: 18/03/2015

Next review due: 18/03/2017