Getting a diagnosis

Symptoms of a brain tumour are often difficult to diagnose early because of their similarity to other common ailments. Due to the importance of early diagnosis for the treatment of brain tumours, researchers are trying to develop new and improved ways of diagnosing brain tumours early.

With over 130 types of brain tumour, it is also important that you get an accurate diagnosis. This will enable your health team to understand how your tumour is likely to behave and also decide on the best treatment for you. If, following initial tests, your doctor suspects you, or your child, have a brain tumour, they will refer you to a specialist, who will undertake a variety of additional tests to aid in the diagnosis. These will not only confirm whether you have a brain tumour, but also the type and grade.

How brain tumours are diagnosed

Tests may include a neurological and physical examination, scans, biopsy, biomarker testing and laboratory analysis.

How brain tumours are graded

Brain tumours are graded from 1 – 4 depending on how they are likely to behave, i.e. how quickly they may grow or spread.

Scans for adults

Scans provide a detailed 3-D image of the brain that show if a tumour is present and, if it is, its size and position.

Scans for children

Scans are used during diagnosis, as well as for monitoring during and after brain tumour treatment.


Biomarkers may be helpful in predicting how quickly your tumour may grow or how well you may respond to some treatments.

Brain tumour prognosis

Information about the prognosis (likely outcome) for specific types of brain tumour.