Cancer Keys: Brain tumours and headaches

Preparing a patient for a suspected cancer referral

Latest articles: Up to 1 in 10 patients do not attend their two week wait appointment, with some patients not understanding the seriousness of the referral. This statistic shows how important it is for GPs to share their concerns around the possibility of cancer, but...

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Welcome to Cancer Keys, a regular bite-sized learning column brought to you by GatewayC in collaboration with Cancer Research UK.

 

Brain tumours and headaches

Whilst many people may associate brain tumours with headaches, often affected patients do not present with a headache until a later stage, if at all.

Potential pitfall

Only up to 16% of brain tumour patients present to their GP with an isolated headache*; some diagnosed patients will never develop a headache. It is important to be vigilant for other progressive neurological symptoms including visual field loss, personality changes or new-onset seizures.

Helpful hint

NICE NG12 guidelines advise an urgent direct access MRI (or CT) scan within two weeks for adults with progressive, sub-acute loss of central neurological function (or a suspected cancer referral if MRI/CT unavailable), or a very urgent referral (within 48 hours) for children and young people with newly abnormal cerebellar or other central neurological function.

 

Cancer Keys are a collaboration between GatewayC and Cancer Research UK. Brain tumour patients do not present with a headache until a later stage, if at all. Access GatewayC’s Brain Tumour – Early Diagnosis course here.

*Pract, J. (2008) Imaging patients with suspected brain tumour: guidance for primary care 

Estimates of the proportion of patients with tumour who present with isolated headache range between 2% and 16%

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