Haemangioblastomas are tumours that grow from blood vessel cells. They are low grade, very slow growing and do not spread, but they can grow in the brain stem and then they are very difficult to treat. They represent about 2% of brain tumours.

What is a haemangioblastoma?

Haemangioblastoma is a slow growing tumour that is most common in ages between 20 and 40. It could appear anywhere in the brain but it is found most often in the posterior fosa area including the cerebellum and brainstem. This area is located at the lower and lower back of the brain.

a graphic diagram of the human brain showing the names of different areas

Because this type of tumour involves blood vessels it can cause tearing which can then lead to bleeding in the brain.

What are the causes of haemangioblastoma?

While the causes of most brain tumours are unknown and not linked to one specific genetic disease, around a quarter of haemangioblastoma cases are directly linked to Hippel-Lindau disease. This is a genetic condition which causes vascular abnormalities and increased risk of cancer in other parts of the body. Haemangioblastomas linked to this disease are more likely to recur after surgery.

What are the symptoms of haemangioblastoma?

The symptoms of the tumour depend largely on its position within the brain but are often:

  • Problems with walking, balance and coordination
  • Intense headaches due to hydrocephalus

If the tumour is located in the brainstem there is more chance of symptoms being severe and needing emergency attention as all the nerves going from the brain to the rest of the body pass through it. A rupture of a blood vessel will also require immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis and treatment for haemangioblastoma

To diagnose a haemangiolastoma, doctors usually get a family history to check if the tumour is linked to a genetic condition (Hippel-Lindau) and also do MRI and CT scans. In some cases, an angiography may be done to identify how blood vessels are involved.

In terms of treatment, if the tumour shows little or no growth, presents minimal side-effects and does not present a threat to surrounding structures, a patient may be put on ' watch and wait'. This means that the patient will have scans every few months without having treatment. Specialists use this approach when they think that the benefits of not starting treatment outweigh the risks. If at some point the tumour begins to grow doctors will start treatment.

Surgery and radiotherapy

Treatment for haemangioblastoma usually involves surgery to remove the tumour and gamma knife radiation. Surgery may be a two stage process, first to cut the blood flow to the tumour by severing associated blodd vessels and then removing the tumour. A recent study has shown that the ability to stop blood flow to these tumours has a lot to do with how successful the outcomes of the surgery will be.


Due to the recurrence of haemangioblastomas associated with the Hippel-Lindau condition, chemotherapy may also be considered along with the treatment methods already mentioned.

Find out more about the treatment options for Haemangioblastoma

Watch and wait

Sometimes no initial treatment is given - learn why and get tips on how to cope.


Learn about the types of surgery you may have and why surgery is not possible for everyone.


Find our how chemotherapy drugs destroy tumour cells by disturbing their growth.


Find out how radiotherapy destroys tumour cells whilst causing as little damage as possible to surrounding cells.

Page last reviewed: 11/2015
Next review due: 11/2018

Information and support

Whether you've been diagnosed with a brain tumour, or it's a family member or friend, we are here to help. We offer a wide range of inclusive and accessible information and services for everyone affected by a brain tumour, whether it's low or high grade, adult or child.

Living with a brain tumour

Find information on side-effects, managing finances and caring for someone with a brain tumour.

Get Support

If you need advice or just someone to talk to find out about our phone support lines, local and online support groups.

Navigating the system

Find out about the NHS, social services and other agencies you may come across after being diagnosed.

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:

Information and Support line

0808 800 0004 (free from landlines and mobiles)


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.

We promise to keep your data safe and you can unsubscribe at any time in the future. More information is in our Privacy Policy.