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Communication difficulties

1 in 5 people we spoke to experienced communication difficulties caused by a brain tumour diagnosis.

It’s important to remember that not everybody who is affected by a brain tumour will experience communication difficulties.

For those that do, the symptoms and severity can differ from person to person, so you may not have the same problems as someone with a similar diagnosis and treatment plan.

What communication difficulties might someone with a brain tumour experience?

There is a range of different communication difficulties that you may experience:

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Track your journey with BRIAN

BRIAN’s quality-of-life tracker lets you monitor how you’ve been feeling and better understand your ups and downs. You can then share this with your loved ones and healthcare team to show them how they can best support you.

What causes communication difficulties?

Position of the tumour

Whether and how a brain tumour affects your communication skills will depend largely on where it is in the brain. Each section or lobe of the brain is responsible for different functions, some of which are involved in communication.

For example, the frontal lobe is involved in language production and the temporal lobe is involved in understanding language. As a result, if your tumour is in one of these lobes, pressure from the tumour itself, swelling around it or treatment directed at that area may have an effect on your communication skills.

The brain is also divided into two hemispheres – left and right. The side on which your tumour is located, as well as the lobe, can affect the type and likelihood of communication effects. If your tumour is located in the left hemisphere, you are more likely to experience language and speech difficulties, as this is where the language areas are generally found. (It is important to note that for some people, the language areas are found in the right hemisphere.)

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Treatment

Brain tumour surgery can also cause communication difficulties, if the area of the brain operated on is involved in communication. These effects may be temporary and reduce with recover, but some effects may be more permanent if that area is removed or damaged.

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I didn’t want to stop talking and engaging with people.

Coping with communication difficulties

The ability to communicate is something we often take for granted. When communication difficulties occur, they can make us feel frustrated, angry, embarrassed and isolated.

But, it’s important to remember that communication is a two-way process. As well as strategies that make communication easier if you’re living with a brain tumour, there are ways for family and friends to listen better and speak more clearly.

We’ve spoken to people affected by brain tumours and healthcare professionals to collect tips that make it easier to cope with communication communication dfficulties.

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Relationship support

Difficulties communicating can place a huge amount of stress on even the healthiest relationship. In our Losing Myself report, 2 in 3 people said a brain tumour diagnosis had a negative impact on their relationship with their partner. 

By launching our free Relationship Support Service in partnership with Relate, we hope to support couples as they manage the extra strain on a relationship that can be caused by a brain tumour diagnosis.

I can’t recommend the Relationship Support Service highly enough to help navigate the tricky ways in which a brain tumour diagnosis can impact on a relationship.

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Tips from our community

“Asking my partner to describe things to me helps when they’re having difficulty finding their words.”

“At the start you think you’ll never get back to normal, but it seems to happen without you even noticing – patience is key! I’m now very honest with people if I’m struggling with my communication and reassure them that I’m not thick, I’m just a brain tumour survivor!”

“I always remind my partner that what they’re trying to say is important, not how they say it. I encourage them to use gestures, do a drawing or write it out, rather than stressing too much about forgetting words.”

“I struggle to follow conversations when more than one person is talking at the same time. I warn people about this now because it can seem like I’m not interested in the conversation.”

Join one of our our Online Support Communities for more tips about coping with a brain tumour diagnosis, from people who truly understand what you’re going through.

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Download our factsheets

Cognitive difficulties – PDF

If you're finding communication more difficult because of a brain tumour diagnosis, you may find our factsheet about cognitive difficulties helpful.

Coping with cognitive difficulties – PDF

Our coping with cognitive difficulties factsheet is packed full of tips to lessen the impact of any cognitive effects caused by a brain tumour.

Speech and language difficulties – PDF

If your communication difficulties are caused by issues around speech and language, you may find this factsheet helpful.

Coping with speech and language difficulties – PDF

Discover a wide range of tips and advice on how to cope when you're experiencing speech and language difficulties.


If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
Support and Information Services
0808 800 0004 Free from landlines and mobiles
Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00
A member of our Support & Information Team provides support over the phone to somebody affected by a brain tumour diagnosis

Get support

If you need someone to talk to or advice on where to get help, our Support and Information team is available by phone, email or live-chat.

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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.