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Referral to a specialist

Find out when GPs refer people to see a brain tumour specialist.

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if you have symptoms that could be due to a brain tumour. This is called an urgent referral. A brain specialist is called a neurologist and a brain surgeon is called a neuro surgeon.

Many people worry that a constant headache might mean they have a brain tumour. But fewer than 1 in 100 people suffering from headaches has a brain tumour. 

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Urgent referral

Your GP should refer you for an urgent MRI scan of the brain if you're an adult (25 years or over) and you have new symptoms such as behavioural, mental or personality problems.

Your GP should consider refering you to a specialist within 48 hours if you are a child (0-15 years) or a young adult (16-24 years) and you have new symptoms such as behavioural, mental or personality problems.

GP examination

Your GP should examine you if you have:

  • any nervous system symptoms
  • fits (seizures)
  • headaches

Your GP looks into the back of your eyes with a special light. This will show if there is any sign of swelling at the back of the eye (papilloedema). This is a sign of raised pressure inside your skull.

Your GP is likely to want to talk to someone who knows you well if you have personality changes or changes in your mental abilites. This could be your partner or a close reative.

If you're still worried

Sometimes you might feel that your GP is not concerned enough about your symptoms. If you think they should be more concerned, print this page and the symptoms page. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Together you can decide if you should see a specialist.

You could also call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, from Monday to Friday.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.