Brain and spine cancer

Brain tumours can be primary or secondary cancers. Malignant primary brain tumours start in your brain and may spread to other parts of your brain or spine. Malignant secondary brain tumours start elsewhere in your body and spread to your brain.

The NHS website has more information about brain cancer. The following charities also provide more information and support:

What to expect at your appointment

After our specialist team has reviewed your history and the results of the tests and investigations you had at your local hospital, we usually call you to arrange your first appointment at King's.

This appointment can take between 45 minutes and two hours, and you may have more tests and investigations at King's on the same day or at a later date.

You will see one of our surgical team, usually a consultant, and your clinical nurse specialist (CNS), who will be your key worker during your care. They will explain your test and treatment options and support you and your family. You will also be given written information about the type of cancer you have, your treatment options, and other sources of support such as King's Macmillan Information and Support Centre.

The consultant will ask you about your symptoms, take your history, show you your scan images (if you would like to see them) and discuss your treatment plan with you.

If they think surgery is your best option, they will do some blood tests and take some swabs at this appointment. They will explain this surgery and may give you a date to come in for your operation. You may also see one of our anaesthetists so they can assess you before your surgery.

Tests and investigations

The type of investigations you have depend on where we think you may have tumour(s) and your medical history. They may include:

  • CT scan of your brain with contrast dye
  • MRI scan of your brain with contrast dye
  • Neuropsychology assessment
  • Perfusion MRI of your brain
  • PET scan at St Thomas' hospital

If we suspect the cancer has spread to other parts of your body you may also have:

If we suspect you have a tumour in your spine you may have:

  • full neurological examination
  • whole neural-axis MRI scan


Your care and treatment depends on the type cancer you have, its size and where it is, how far it has advanced (the stage) and your overall health. The final decision about what treatment you have is yours.

After our team of specialists reviews the results of your tests and investigations, we will arrange an appointment so you can discuss your treatment options with your consultant and clinical nurse specialist.

Your care usually includes one or more or a combination of treatments:

  • Surgery to relieve your symptoms and to help us decide whether you need more treatment such as chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.
  • Radiotherapy at Guy’s Cancer Centre, or Maidstone, or Kent and Canterbury Hospital, depending on where you live.
  • Radiosurgery - a targeted form of radiotherapy - at Bart's Hospital or Cromwell Hospital
  • Chemotherapy at Guy’s & St Thomas’, Maidstone, or Kent and Canterbury, depending on where you live.

Who to contact

At your first appointment, we will tell you who your key worker is, and how and when you can contact them. Your key worker is usually a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

Neuro-oncology clinical nurse specialists

Tel: +44 (0)20 3299 4151
Available: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Urgent queries

If you are receiving chemotherapy please contact your acute oncology service.
Please visit your local GP or local Accident and Emergency department.

Non-clinical support

If you have practical queries or want further information about support groups, contact the Macmillan Centre at King’s.

Our team

Your care will be provided by a group of experts called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). This is a team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals specialising in treating your type of cancer. You can discuss your care with them and ask them any questions you have about your treatment. Our team members include:

Consultant Neurologist
  • Dr Katia Cikurel
Consultant Neurosurgeons
  • Prof Keyoumars Ashkan
  • Mr Ranj Bhangoo
  • Mr Christopher Chandler
  • Mr Richard Gullan
  • Mr Francesco Vergani
Consultant Oncologists
  • Dr Beaney (Guys and St Thomas')
  • Dr Brazil (Guys and St Thomas')
  • Dr Sadler (Maidstone)

How we support you

We want to make sure that you get all the assistance you need to live well with – and after – cancer. There’s a wide range of support available to help you cope with cancer, including physical, emotional and practical advice for you, your family, friends and carers.