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Talking to your doctor

It’s important to understand what might happen during the appointment and what questions you want to ask.

Brain tumours are rare, however, if you’re worried and a symptom persists or if you have more than one symptom of a brain tumour then:

  • Talk to your doctor
    GP appointments are usually quite short, so make sure you find out how to best prepare for your appointment.
  • Get an eye test
    If your symptoms are limited to changes in vision and/or headaches, get your eyes tested by an optician before seeing your GP.
  • Go to A&E
    If the symptoms are sudden or severe, you should go to your emergency department or call 999.

Should I speak to a doctor during the coronavirus pandemic?

We understand you may feel worried about seeking help from your GP during the coronavirus pandemic – but please don’t delay speaking to a healthcare professional.

The NHS and your GP are still here for you and have made changes that make it easier to safely speak to a healthcare professional and get medical help if you need it.

It’s more important than ever for you to prepare for your appointments by understanding what might happen during the appointment and what questions you want to ask.

  • Write down all of your questions and bring this with you. You can also consider emailing them beforehand so that they understand what you are going to ask ahead of time
  • Make a note of all the changes you have been having such as when your headaches are, or when you feel nauseous. You can do this using our BRIAN quality of life tracker. Bring this with you to show your GP during your appointment
  • You can ask your doctor if your symptoms could be caused by a brain tumour. You may wish to show them our website
  • You should take someone with you to your appointments, so that they can help you take notes, or remember things that you might not. It is also good to have someone there who can help support you emotionally as well.

Before your appointment

GP appointments are usually quite short, so it may be helpful to prepare for the appointment to make sure you remember everything you want to say and ask.

You could write a list of the symptoms you want to tell your doctor about. You can include when these first started, how often they’re happening and if they’ve changed or got worse.

If the appointment is for your child, you may want to ask their nursery or school if they have noticed any symptoms. You may be able to put together a record of your child’s symptoms and note when they have changed or worsened. Parents or carers normally know their child best, so will notice changes in health, appearance or behaviour. You should mention any concerns to your doctor.

During your appointment

Explain your symptoms to your doctor, tell them how long you’ve been experiencing them and how they make you feel. If you’ve written notes or kept a diary of your symptoms, show this to your doctor.

You can ask your doctor if your symptoms could be caused by a brain tumour. You may wish to show them our website or the HeadSmart information for babies, children and teenagers.

The doctor may wish to examine you or your child to assess the symptoms.

Outcomes of the appointment

Your doctor will usually do one of three things:

  • Reassure you that the symptoms are not due to a brain tumour. This may be because they are able to diagnose another condition or they feel there is no cause for concern. They should explain the reason that they’ve reached this decision. The doctor may refer you or your child to a specialist if they think a different condition is causing the symptoms.
  • If the doctor thinks that the symptoms might be caused by a brain tumour, they can refer you for a brain scan or to a doctor who’ll arrange the scan. You may also be sent for tests for other possible causes.
  • Sometimes the doctor might ask you to return for another appointment, usually within 4 weeks or if the symptoms get worse. This could be because they think a brain tumour is unlikely but can’t be ruled out. If the symptoms don’t go away or become worse, further investigation into the cause may be needed.

Questions to ask at the end of your appointment

  • If you’re going to be referred for a scan, what will this involve?
  • If you’re expecting to be contacted by another doctor or specialist, who will this be and when should you expect to hear from them?
  • If you need to make another appointment, when should this be made for?

After the appointment

You should follow the steps that your doctor has given you. If you don’t hear from your doctor or the specialist they’ve referred you to within the expected time, contact your GP surgery to follow up.

Keep track of any changes in symptoms. You can write these down in a diary to show your doctor or specialist.

If your doctor has reassured you that they do not think you have a brain tumour but you continue to be concerned, you’re entitled to ask for a second opinion.

Share your experiences and help create change

By taking part in our Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys and sharing your experiences, you can help us improve treatment and care for everyone affected by a brain tumour.