About Brain Cancer

In this section you can find out more about:

This will help to give you a better understanding of the disease. Remember, if you want to know more or you have further questions, note them down and speak to your medical professional.

What is Brain Cancer?

Brain cancer occurs when the cells in the brain and/or spinal cord start to grow in an out-of-control fashion and form a tumour.

Together the brain and the spinal cord make up what is known as the central nervous system (see diagram).

Brain tumours are not always cancerous. The most common type of brain cancer is a glioma. There are a number of different types of glioma, including astrocytomas, glioblastomas, oligodendrogliomas, mixed gliomas and ependymomas.

Adults and children can both get brain cancer, but the types of tumours that form in children are different to those that form in adults. Children are more likely to get a different types of brain cancer and will receive different treatment for brain cancer to adults.


Who gets Brain Cancer?

Brain tumours are relatively rare. In New Zealand, around 300 people will be diagnosed with brain cancer every year.1 Men are more likely to be diagnosed with malignant brain cancers than women.

Brain cancer can affect both adults and children, although children are more likely to get different types of brain cancer.

In most cases, we do not know what causes a brain tumour and few environmental or lifestyle risk factors have been identified. The risk factors that have been identified include:

  • A family history for some rare forms of brain tumour, such as neurofibromatosis or tuberous sclerosis.
  • Previous exposure to radiation. This is rare and usually occurs in those who’ve received radiation treatment for a prior condition.
  • Having a lowered immune system, such as having HIV/AIDS or on immunosuppressant medicines.
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use

These are general risk factors only and they do not necessarily mean that you will have brain cancer. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns.