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High grade brain tumours

Each year in the UK, approximately 5,000 people are diagnosed with high grade fast-growing brain tumours.

What is a high grade brain tumour?

High grade brain tumours are classified as grade three or four. They:

  • are fast growing
  • can be referred to as 'malignant' or 'cancerous'
  • are more likely to spread to other parts of the brain
  • may come back, even if intensively treated
  • cannot usually be treated by surgery alone and often require additional treatments.

Is it brain cancer?

High grade brain tumours are also referred to as grade three or four brain cancer.

Occasionally, people will refer to these as 'stage three' or 'stage four' brain cancer. However, the word 'stage' is the incorrect term for discussing brain cancer, although it is often used when talking about other forms of cancer. This is because the term 'stage' refers to the spread of cancer throughout the body, as brain tumours do not spread outside of the brain they are classified by their 'grade' i.e. growth rate within the brain.

Grade one and two brain tumours grow more slowly and are usually non-cancerous. They are often referred to as 'low grade tumours'.

Click here to find out more about brain cancer.

Types of high grade brain tumour

There are over 130 types of brain tumour, as classified by the World Health Organisation accounting for both high grade (cancerous) and low grade (non-cancerous). The most common type of primary brain cancer in adults is glioblastoma.

There are both primary and secondary types of glioblastoma. Primary glioblastoma originates in the brain and first appears as a grade four glioblastoma.

Often, secondary cancer refers to the spread of cancer from one part of the body to another, however a secondary glioblastoma still originates in the brain but has developed from a lower grade brain tumour type, known as an astrocytoma.

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