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:

Explore The Patient Pathway

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.


At the treatment planning 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 or your treatment.


During the days following your orientation and treatment planning appointment our team of experts (physicists, radiation therapist planners and your radiation oncologist) work together to develop the ideal treatment plan for you. This involves a highly sophisticated planning software system and review process to guarantee safe and effective delivery of treatment. Depending on the site and complexity of the treatment, this stage can take up to two weeks.

First Day of Treatment

You’ll need to arrive 10-15 minutes before your allocated treatment time so that we can greet you and to give you time to get changed for your treatment.

If you are driving, we recommend you enter Gate 3, 98 Mountain Road and drive up the ramp to the mid level car park. Please walk across the link bridge to Auckland Radiation Oncology (ARO). Please report to the ARO reception desk. 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.

Last Week of Treatment

An appointment will be scheduled for you to meet with a member of our patient care team 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.

Following Treatment