CNS lymphoma

A lymphoma is a tumour caused by the uncontrolled growth of the lymph cells (a type of white blood cell). Lymph cells help the body fight infection. There are many different types of lymphoma - usually they form in the lymph nodes around the body.

Rarely, a lymphoma can form in other places, such as the central nervous system (CNS) - either as a mass that presses on the brain or spinal cord from outside or, less commonly, as a mass or spread within the meninges (the membranes covering the brain). These lymphomas are called a primary cerebral lymphoma or a primary CNS lymphoma.

CNS lymphomas represent just under 5% of brain and spinal cord tumours.

CNS lymphoma grade

CNS lymphomas are usually high grade and are a type of 'non-Hodgkin lymphoma' called 'diffuse large B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma'. (Hodgkin lymphoma is a different illness entirely).

It is important for your doctors to tell you which type of lymphoma you have.

Learn how brain tumours are graded.


CNS lymphomas are treated differently to other brain tumours in that the main treatment is usually chemotherapy. Some people may also have radiotherapy after the chemotherapy.

Read more about chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Information and support

We've here to help you cope with a brain tumour diagnosis.

Visit our Living with a brain tumour pages for information on side-effects, managing finances and caring for someone with a brain tumour.

For details of our telephone support line and peer-to-peer support groups, please see our brain tumour support hub.

Newly diagnosed?

Our Patient Information Pack has been designed to help you feel confident when discussing treatment and care options with your medical team. Order yours here.

Did you find this information useful?

Please rate the information on this page:

How can we make this page better?

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 & Info Line

0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)

Research & Clinical Trials Info Line

01252 749 999

Phone lines open Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00

You can also join our active online community on Facebook - find out more about our groups.