Symptoms and diagnoses

A basic distinction is made between tumours affecting the actual brain tissue (primary brain tumours) and those involving the associated structures of the brain (e.g. meninges) and secondary brain tumours resp. cancer spread from other parts of the body (metastases). This distinction is important, as it necessitates fundamental differences in the treatment strategies and carries different individual prognoses.

High-grade glioma

This type of primary brain tumour is characterized by rapid and destructive growth within the brain. It mainly affects patients in middle or higher age. Common symptoms often include acute deterioration of brain functions, e.g. of speech or motor skills.

Low-grade glioma

This type of primary brain tumour is characterised by slow growth, often over the course of several years. In some cases, certain brain functions may shift to different regions of the brain (brain “plasticity”). This disease tends to affect patients in a younger to middle aged group, with the first sign often being seizures (epilepsy).


These tumours occur in the meninges, or dura mater – the layers of tissue covering the brain. They are mostly slow growing and do not infiltrate the brain itself, so they can often be completely removed by surgery. This type of cancer mainly affects patients in middle to higher age. It is sometimes diagnosed by chance during diagnostic tests for other diseases. The potential symptoms cover a wide range, including neurological deficits, seizures or personality changes.


Tumours in other parts of the body can cause secondary growth in the brain as well. Brain metastases can be isolated (single) or present in several areas of the brain (multiple). This classification is important for deciding which type of treatment is appropriate and likely to be successful.

Pituitary gland tumours

In the long term, these tumours may be associated with hormonal disorders, such as changes in body proportions or lactation in women who do not breast-feed. Acute problems such as a rapid loss of vision can occasionally occur, for example caused by bleeding within the actual tumour.

Acoustic neuromas

Also known as vestibular schwannomas, these are usually benign tumours that origin from the vestibulocochlear nerve and grow along the base of the skull. Common symptoms include reduction or even loss of hearing in one ear, tinnitus, dizziness and vertigo.