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Recovering from brain tumour surgery

It can take some time to recover from your brain tumour operation. Everyone takes a different amount of time to recover.

You might stay in hospital for around 3 to 10 days after surgery. How long you stay in hospital depends on your operation and how long you take to recover. As soon as it is safe, you will be allowed to go home where you continue to recover.

Going home after a big operation might sound frightening. It can help to know exactly what to expect and the help and support available.

Immediate side effects

It’s common for people to feel worse immediately after their surgery than they did before. This can be upsetting if you are not prepared for it. Removing a brain tumour is a big operation so it might be a while before you feel the benefits from having the tumour removed. 

Brain surgery can cause swelling in the brain. Your doctors and nurses monitor this closely and will give you treatment to reduce the swelling. But it might still cause symptoms such as:

  • weakness
  • dizzy spells
  • poor balance or lack of coordination
  • personality or behaviour changes
  • confusion
  • problems with your speech
  • fits (seizures)

Your symptoms might be worse at first. And you may notice symptoms that you didn’t have before.

This can be a difficult time for you and your family. They might worry that your operation has not worked. But symptoms usually lessen or disappear as you recover.

Your doctor and clinical nurse specialist can give you some idea of what to expect about recovery. Some people recover completely from their surgery. Others may have some long term problems. It isn’t always possible to tell beforehand how things will work out.

Long term problems after brain surgery

Some people recover well after brain surgery, but this can take some time. Other people have some problems, or long term difficulties.

The problems you may have depends on the area of the brain where the tumour was (or still is if you only had part of the tumour removed). Problems might include:

  • difficulty walking
  • weakness on an arm or leg
  • difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • behaviour changes
  • problems with speech

Going back to work

Depending on your job and the problems you might have, it can be hard for you to go back to work immediately after having brain surgery. For example, if you have a job where your mental skills are very important, or if you operate heavy machinery. This can be very difficult to accept and adjust to.

We have more information about going back to work after treatment for a brain tumour.

Support for you

Depending on the problems you have, you might get help and support from different healthcare professionals.

Physiotherapists

Physiotherapists can make you an exercise plan to help you improve your fitness level.

Speech and language therapists

They can help people with speech and swallowing problems.

Occupational therapists

Can assess you and help you find ways to manage your day to day to life. For example, they can get equipment for your house such as rails for stairs.

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
08 May 2019
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