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Brain Tumors: Symptoms

What are the symptoms of brain tumors?

Man holding hand to head, expressing pain.
About half of people with brain tumors complain of headaches.

Brain tumor symptoms depend on how big the tumor is and where it is in the brain. Symptoms can be caused by the damage the tumor does to parts of the brain. Or they can be caused from increased pressure inside the skull, swelling in the brain, or blockage of the flow of fluid in the brain.

If a brain tumor grows slowly, its symptoms may appear very slowly over time. You may not even notice them for a long time. The most common symptoms of a brain tumor include:

  • Headaches. They can be worse in the morning. The headaches may wake you up in the middle of the night. They often become less painful as the day goes on. About half of people with brain tumors complain of headaches. The headaches tend not to cause sensitivity to light and sound that are common with a migraine.

  • Seizures. About half of people with brain tumors will have seizures or convulsions. These can range from muscle twitches and spasms to loss of consciousness.

  • Nausea. This may occur with or without vomiting.

  • Weakness or loss of feeling. This can happen in the arms, legs, or both. It may occur on only one side of the body.

  • Tiredness. You may feel tired often.

  • Memory or personality changes. You may have trouble remembering or have changes in your behavior.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Stumbling or trouble walking

  • Changes in vision or abnormal eye movements

  • Changes in speech or trouble talking

  • Changes in alertness, from increased sleepiness to coma

Again, symptoms depend on which part of the brain is affected. As the tumor grows, an increase in intracranial pressure (ICP) within the skull can make headaches, nausea, and vomiting worse.

Swelling around the tumor, called edema, can also make symptoms worse.

When to see your healthcare provider

Most of the time these symptoms are caused by other health problems. But it's important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have a brain tumor.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2020
© 2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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