Basic Facts about Brain Tumours


Brain tumours are a relatively unfamiliar medical condition in Singapore. Yet, a brain tumour is a complex condition which require delicate treatment and rigorous care. Few understand the difficult journeys of brain tumour patients.

Brain tumours do not discriminate. Each year over 500 adults and 40 children in Singapore undergo surgical treatment for brain tumours in public hospitals.

The most common brain tumours are metastatic tumours that spread to the brain from up to 20% of all other cancers.

There are about 130 different types of brain tumours. Not all brain tumours are cancerous.


Brain tumours are put into groups according to how quickly they are likely to grow. There are 4 groups, called grades 1 to 4.

You may have been told you have a benign tumour or a malignant tumour. By benign, we generally mean the following:

  • The tumour is relatively slow growing
  • It is less likely to come back if it is completely removed
  • It is not likely to spread to other parts of the brain or spinal cord

By malignant, we generally mean the following.

  • The tumour is relatively fast growing
  • It may come back after surgery, even if completely removed
  • It may spread to other parts of the brain or spinal cord
  • It can’t just be treated with surgery and may require  radiotherapy or chemotherapy

Note that it is possible in some cases for a benign tumour to develop into a malignant tumour.


They are generally named after the type of cell they developed from. Most brain tumours develop from the cells that support the nerve cells of the brain called glial cells. A tumour of glial cells is a glioma.

Brain tumours can also be named after the area of the brain they are growing in. A tumour of the pituitary gland is called a pituitary adenoma. A tumour developed from the covering of the brain (the meninges) is called a meningioma. Tumours growing from the nerves entering the brain are called neuromas.