Read about how primary brain tumours are grouped by grade, type and results of genetic testing.

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Understanding Brain Tumours booklet 2022
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Download Section Three of our brain tumour booklet: Classifying brain tumours

  • Unlike other cancers, there is no staging system for primary brain
    tumours. Instead, they are grouped by:
    • grade
    • type
    • results of genetic testing
  • A brain tumour is given a grade (a number from 1 to 4) depending on how
    the cells look under a microscope.
    • Low-grade brain tumours (grade 1 and 2)
    • High-grade brain tumours (grade 3 and 4)
  • Brain tumours are named after the type of brain cell that the tumour
    starts to grow in.
  • There are many different brain tumours. They are divided into two main
    types.
    • Gliomas
    • Non-glial tumours
  • Anyone diagnosed with a brain tumour is not allowed to drive. Your
    doctor will assess if and when it is safe for you to drive again.

  • Atu i ētahi atu matepukupuku, kīhai he pūnaha whakawāhanga mō ngā
    puku roro tuatahi. Oti rā, ka whakarōpūhia mā:
    • te māhiti
    • te momo
    • te whakatau o ngā whakamātautau iranga.
  • Hoaturia ai he māhiti ki te puku roro (he nama mai i te 1 ki te 4) e ai ki te
    āhua o ngā pūtau ka tirohia ana i raro i te karu whakarahi
    • Ngā puku roro māhiti-iti (māhiti 1 me te 2)
    • Puku roro māhiti nui (māhiti 3 me te 4)
  • Whakaingoatia ai ngā puku roro e ai ki te momo pūtau roro i tīmata ai te
    tipu o te puku ki roto.
  • He maha tonu ngā puku roro rerekē. Kua ritua ki raro i ngā momo matua e rua. 
    • Puku pūtau roro
    • Kore puku pūtau roro
  • Kīhai ngā tāngata kua whakatauria kua puta he puku roro ki a rātou, e
    āhei ana ki te taraiwa. Mā tō rata e aromatawai mehemea he pai noa iho
    mōu ki te taraiwa anō
Section 3

Classifying brain tumours

Unlike most other types of cancer, there is no staging system for primary brain tumours. Instead, they are grouped by grade, type and genetic testing.

The way brain tumours are classified is complicated, and many of the medical words used to describe them can be difficult to understand. Ask your treatment team to explain anything that you are unsure of.

Grades of brain tumour

Brain tumours are given grades (numbered from 1 to 4) depending on how the cells look under a microscope.

  • Low-grade brain tumours (grade 1 and 2)

Usually, low-grade brain tumours grow slowly and are unlikely to spread to other parts of the brain. Because low-grade tumours can cause symptoms if they grow, they may need treatment as they can also become high-grade tumours.

  • High-grade brain tumours (grade 3 and 4)

High-grade brain tumours are cancer. They grow more quickly than low-grade brain tumours, and cause problems by spreading into nearby parts of the brain or the spinal cord. They do not usually spread to other parts of the body.

Types of brain tumour

Brain tumours are named after the type of brain cell that the tumour starts to grow in. For example, a brain tumour that starts in the brain’s glial cells is called a glioma.

There are many brain tumour types. They are divided into two main types:

  • Gliomas — these are the most common types of primary high-grade brain tumours. Astrocytomas are the most common glioma. Less common types include oligodendroglioma, mixed gliomas (made of more than one type of cell) and ependymoma
  • Non-glial tumours — these include meningioma, central nervous system (CNS) lymphomas, pituitary gland tumour and pineal gland tumour

 Find out more about different types of brain tumours

Driving after a diagnosis of a brain tumour

Anyone diagnosed with a brain tumour is not allowed to drive.

Your doctor will assess if, and when, it is safe for you to drive again. You can contact your local Cancer Society office for driving services available in your area.

Last updated: September 1, 2022