Brain and spinal cord tumours

What are brain and spinal cord tumours?

The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system. A tumour occurs when abnormal cells grow and form a mass in the brain or spine.

Brain tumours, which are also called brain cancer, are one of the most common cancers in adolescents and young adults and the leading cause of cancer death in young adults.


Brain tumours are grouped into two main types:

  • Malignant: these are cancerous tumours that can spread to other parts of the brain or spinal cord
  • Benign: these are non-cancerous tumours that are slow growing and are unlikely to spread

Malignant brain tumours can be primary or secondary. Primary brain tumours start in the brain. Secondary brain tumours occur when cancer starts in another part of the body and spreads (metastasises) to the brain.



young person with a brain or spinal cord tumour receiving treatment from canteen's youth cancer services

Specialist treatment and support for young people diagnosed with brain and spinal cord tumours

Specialist treatment and support for young people with cancer aged 15-25 is provided by the Youth Cancer Services (YCS) based in major hospitals throughout Australia. Canteen also offers events and other support for young people with cancer.


Types of brain tumours

Brain tumours are named after the type of cell in which they start.

Common types of primary brain tumours include:

  • Gliomas, including astrocytomas, glioblastomas and oligodendrogliomas
  • Meningiomas
  • Medulloblastomas

Astrocytomas are the most common type of brain tumour in young people.

Canteen is running a clinical trial that hopes to give adolescents and young adults with medulloblastoma access to state-of-the-art tumour profiling and targeted therapies to improve treatments, reduce side effects and improve cure rates.



young girl using canteen's robots on an ipad to chat with another person

When cancer’s in your life, Canteen is in your corner.


Cancer affects everyone differently. That’s why Canteen provides a wide range of support services to help you overcome the specific challenges you’re dealing with.

Whether you’re dealing with your parent’s cancera brother or sister’s cancer or your own diagnosis, we have got your back. We also have newer services specifically for parents too.

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young person listening to canteen's cancer unscripted podcast
Every cancer experience is different
Listen to Canteen's Cancer Unscripted Podcast Series where young people talk all things cancer and answer the difficult questions.
More info
Visit the Cancer Council for more information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of brain and spinal cord tumours