Do Brain Tumors Cause Pain in the Back of the Head
If a brain tumor grows large enough to press on nerves or blood vessels, it can cause pain in the back of the head

If a brain tumor grows large enough to press on nerves or blood vessels, it can cause pain in the back of the head. However, headaches alone rarely indicate a brain tumor.

What are symptoms of brain tumors?

Symptoms of brain tumors include:

8 characteristics of brain tumor headaches

Headaches associated with brain tumors have specific characteristics:

  • Cause you to wake up at night
  • May appear in the morning when you wake up
  • Pain changes when you change positions
  • Pain does not respond to OTC pain relievers
  • Worsens with coughing, sneezing, or straining
  • May dull or sharp or stabbing
  • Generalized or localized to a specific area
  • May last for days or weeks

Morning headaches, however, can also be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. A persistent or severe headache followed by light sensitivity, nausea, or vomiting may indicate migraine headaches or tension headaches. 

It is always essential to note the onset, pattern, and characteristics of your headache. If your headache is severe, persistent, and has the characteristics and accompanying symptoms listed above, talk to your doctor.

Are brain tumors that cause headaches typically malignant or benign?

Headaches associated with malignant or benign tumors can vary. In some cases, a malignant brain tumor may cause no symptoms, while a benign brain tumor can cause debilitating headaches.

Therefore, it’s important to be diagnosed by a doctor, who will typically recommend a CT or MRI scan to identify the type of the tumor present.

When to see a doctor about a headache

Most headaches should resolve on their own or with the help of a pain reliever. If your headache lasts longer than 7 days and doesn’t respond to painkillers, it could indicate a serious medical condition

If you have been diagnosed with cancer or have a history of cancer and start to notice headaches, consult your doctor.


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Medically Reviewed on 12/15/2021
Image Source: iStock Images

Begley M. When Is a Headache a Symptom of a Brain Tumor? Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Mayo Clinic. Brain tumor.

Roswell Park. What Do Brain Tumor Headaches Feel Like?