Diagnosing brain tumours earlier and more accurately for both children and adults.

Diagnosing a childhood brain tumour early and accurately could save lives and reduce long-term disability. There is little to suggest that this is not the case for adults. When cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, there can be more treatment options and a better chance of a good recovery.

Early diagnosis


Our evidence-based, multi award-winning HeadSmart campaign aims to reduce the time it takes to diagnose childhood brain tumours by raising public and healthcare professional awareness of the signs and symptoms. This campaign is based on research carried out at the University of Nottingham, funded by us in conjunction with the Big Lottery Fund, to understand the route to diagnosis experienced by children with brain tumours in the UK.

Since the introduction of our guideline for healthcare professionals in 2007, and the launch of the public awareness campaign in 2011, the average time taken to diagnose childhood brain tumours has fallen from 14 weeks to 6.7 weeks. Our goal is to reduce this to five weeks or less, to be on par with the best in the world, and we will continue to invest in HeadSmart in order to achieve this.

Research is being carried out by Professor David Walker at the University of Nottingham to investigate the impact of the HeadSmart campaign on patient outcomes.


Following on from the success of the HeadSmart campaign we opened a funding call for applicants to submit their best ideas on how we can promote early diagnosis in adults. We were able to fund two exciting projects from these applications and look forward to better understanding the diagnostic pathway for adults with brain tumours.

Early diagnosis in adults can be even more problematic because the symptoms are easily confused with other conditions. We are funding research by lead by Dr Paul Brennan at the University of Edinburgh to help general practitioners to identify brain tumours at an earlier stage when people present themselves at the surgery. Dr Brennan's group will be looking at referral data to find any common delays within the healthcare system; and will speak to individuals to find out what symptom/s lead to their diagnosis and how long they delayed speaking to a healthcare professional.

Our research aims to understand the reasons why some adult patients take longer than others to be diagnosed with a brain tumour. There is an urgent need to reduce this delay, so that treatment can begin sooner and can be more effective; this is why our research is so vitally important. By donating to The Brain Tumour Charity, you can make a real difference and improve the outcomes for everyone diagnosed with a brain tumour." Dr Paul Brennan

Research lead by Dr Fiona Walter and Dr Alexis Joannides from the University of Cambridge involves interviewing patients to find out what their experiences and symptoms of brain cancer are. This aims to gain a broader understanding of which symptoms appear to matter most for the diagnosis of brain cancer.

“We will explore the patient perspective using a qualitative approach to identify the patient, clinical and health system factors affecting the appraisal, help-seeking and pre-diagnostic intervals of patients recently diagnosed with brain cancer" Dr Fiona Walter

Accurate Diagnosis

As well as being diagnosed early, it is also vital that patients recieve an accurate tumour diagnosis, as identifying the correct tumour type means they can receive the most appropriate and effective treatment. As our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underpinning the different tumour types develops, we can use this to help inform diagnostic and prognostic assessments, alongside standard pathology tests.

This combined approach to ensuring more accurate diagnoses is likely to be included in the World Health Organisation's classification of head and neck 2016.

Our HeadSmart Campaign

Our HeadSmart campaign has already reduced diagnosis times from over 14 weeks to less than 7 weeks.

Getting a Diagnosis

Find out more about how brain tumours are diagnosed in adults and children.

Accurate Diagnosis

Find out how our research is improving the accuracy of diagnoses in our Research Impact Report.

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