Ireland needs to double the number of brain surgeons from 9 to 18 to cut waiting lists for surgery for tumours and other conditions, a conference organised by the Irish Cancer Society has been told.

Mr Donnacha O'Brien, consultant neurosurgeon at Beaumont Hospital, said there were only six consultant neurosurgeons in Dublin and three in Cork and that waiting lists of six months for less urgent cases existed in some areas.

Doctors at the conference also revealed that a small number of neurosurgical operations have been performed here with the patient awake during surgery.

The procedure, allows the surgeon to see if a patients' speech or movement is affected as a tumour is being removed.

Dr Michael Farrell, neuropathologist at Beaumont Hospital, said 'awake surgery' should be performed more widely, especially for low-grade tumours, but at present Ireland did not have the staff.

He added that, because the surgery takes 25% to 50% longer, enough theatre time was not available.

The Health Service Executive said a report is due to be published in a few weeks which will provide a comprehensive blueprint for these services in the future.

Each year, around 300 new cases of primary brain tumours are diagnosed and over 200 people die from these cancers.