Understanding Cancer

Brain Cancer

Brain cancer happens when brain and spinal cells grow out of control to form a tumour. These tumours don’t often spread to other parts of the body but they can sometimes spread through the brain tissue.

What to expect before, during, and after radiotherapy treatment:

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Even benign tumours can be a problem in the brain or spinal cord. As they grow, healthy brain tissue can be destroyed or compressed. This causes damage to the brain that can be disabling and sometimes fatal.

In more detail

Brain cancer starts in the central nervous system and causes different symptoms depending on the location of the tumour. The large outer part of the brain is called the cerebrum and a tumour in this area can cause a range of symptoms: seizures, difficulty speaking, a change of mood or personality, weakness or paralysis of part of the body, and changes in vision, hearing, or other sensations.

A tumour in the basal ganglia part of the brain usually causes weakness in the body but can also cause tremor or other involuntary movements.

Tumours in the cerebellum may cause problems with balance, fine motor skills, swallowing and changes in rhythm of speech.

Tumours in the brain stem can cause many symptoms like weakness, loss of sensation, stiff muscles, and problems with facial and eye movement or with swallowing. Because of the size and importance of the brain stem, it may not be possible to surgically remove tumours from this area.

Depending on where in the spinal cord a tumour is positioned, it may cause weakness, paralysis, numbness or problems in the bladder and bowel. Tumours starting in cranial nerves may cause vision problems, trouble swallowing, hearing loss in one or both ears, facial paralysis, numbness, or pain.

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The Patient Pathway

First Specialist Appointment

At the first specialist appointment you will meet with your specialist radiation oncologist (RO) to discuss the proposed radiotherapy treatment approach and answer any questions and concerns you may have. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.


At the orientation appointment a patient care specialist (nurse or radiation therapist) will explain the procedures in more detail and answer any concerns that you might have about ARO and your treatment. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.


Before starting treatment, you will attend a simulation appointment to determine the optimal body position for receiving treatment and provide a detailed picture of the area to be treated.

First Day of Treatment

Please arrive 10-15 minutes before your allocated treatment time so we can greet you and allow you time to get changed for your treatment. Please bring an extra layer of clothing (e.g. cardigan or jacket) should you feel cold while you wait in the treatment reception area. Please report to the ARO reception desk. For free parking please refer to the information below. See location and parking for more information.

During Treatment

Weekly reviews with your radiation oncologist or one of our patient care team will be conducted to monitor any side effects and provide on-going support and advice as required. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate.

Last Week of Treatment

An appointment will be scheduled for you to meet with a member of our patient care team to answer any questions and to ensure appropriate care is organised after your last treatment visit. This may include regular monitoring of blood results, appointments for dressings and management of side effects.

After Treatment

Usually 2-6 weeks after your last treatment visit you will meet with your radiation oncologist or the doctor that referred you to ARO. Your GP will also be sent a report about your treatment and will continue to provide for your general health needs. 

You are welcome to contact our patient care team to answer questions or concerns that you may have about your treatment or possible side effects up to 2 weeks following your last treatment visit.  Please phone our nurses on 09 623 6585, email aronurses@aro.co.nz or make an appointment during business hours. 

Should you require support after 2 weeks, please contact the ARO Specialist Centre on phone 09 623 6587 or email specialistcentre@aro.co.nz. For all other health concerns, please contact your GP, usual healthcare provider or local emergency facility. Click read more to learn more and download information by treatment site e.g. breast, prostate. This includes information on possible side effects and self care advice by treatment site.