- Symptoms & Signs
- 2 Types of Tumors
- Do They Cause Headaches?
- Malignant vs. Benign Tumors
- When to Seek Help
- Related Resources
What are the symptoms of a brain tumor?
The symptoms of a tumor depend on how big it is and where it is in the brain. Some slow-growing tumors may not cause any symptoms at first. Eventually, the tumor may put pressure on the brain, which may cause the signs and symptoms below:
- Severe, persistent headaches that may not be related to an existing illness such as migraine is considered a common finding in patients with a brain tumor. Pain may be worse in the mornings and may be associated with nausea or vomiting. Headaches due to a brain tumor usually worsen with coughing, exercising, or changing position. These types of headaches may not be relieved with over-the-counter medications.
- Another common scenario in which a brain tumor is first detected involves a person who is otherwise healthy having a sudden onset of seizures or fits.
Other common signs and symptoms include the following:
- Irritability, drowsiness, apathy, or forgetfulness
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Partial loss of vision or hearing
- Hallucinations, depression, or mood swings
- Personality changes, including abnormal and uncharacteristic behavior
- Changes in intellect or memory problems
- Uncoordinated movements, unsteadiness, or weakness on one side of the body
- Speech difficulties
- Loss of sense of smell
- Warning signs of brain tumor symptoms in women include nipple discharge, excessive body hair, and lack of menstruation apart from the above symptoms
Any of these symptoms can occur alone or in combination.
What is a brain tumor?
Uncontrolled and abnormal cell growth in the brain is called a brain tumor, which is divided into two types:
- Primary: If any brain cells grow and multiply abnormally to cause a brain tumor, this is called a primary tumor.
- Secondary: If abnormal cells have spread to the brain from another part of the body, this is called a secondary tumor. Secondary or metastatic brain tumors are the most common type of brain tumor and they usually spread via the bloodstream. Cancers of the breast, lungs, kidneys, and skin are the ones that most commonly spread to the brain.
What are the common causes of a brain tumor?
The causes of brain tumors are not yet clearly known; however, there are common risk factors or triggers that may cause a brain tumor:
- Being overweight or obese increases the risk of certain types of brain tumors.
- An unhealthy lifestyle including smoking and excessive alcohol consumption may trigger abnormal cell growth.
- The risk of getting brain tumors becomes higher with increasing age.
- Repeated exposure to radiation through ionizing radiation, X-rays, and computed tomography (CT) scans, power lines, nuclear plants, mobile phones, and cell phone towers may trigger tumors.
- Exposure to certain harmful chemicals may trigger a brain tumor. Examples include diesel exhaust, coal tar volatiles, tobacco smoke, arsenic compounds, cadmium compounds, nickel compounds, and more.
- People who have had cancer such as leukemia as a child have a higher risk of brain tumors as an adult. Adults who have had cancer also may have a chance of getting brain tumors, but further research is needed to confirm this finding.
- In some rare cases, brain tumors may be genetically inherited. If a lot of people in a family have had brain tumors, an individual may be at an increased risk of the condition.
Do brain tumors cause pain in the back of the head?
What does your head feel like if you have a brain tumor?
Headaches associated with brain tumors have specific characteristics:
- Cause you to wake up at night
- It 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 tumor present.
- Weed-Friendly Posts on Social Media Get Teens Using Cannabis
- Deer Carry COVID Variants No Longer Seen in People
- Working Gets Tough When Grieving a Lost Spouse
- Obamacare Helped Women in Some Southern States Get Better Breast Cancer Care
- AHA News: Pregnancy Complications Could Increase Woman's Stroke Risk at Earlier Age
- More Health News »
What are the treatment options for a brain tumor?
Treatment for a brain tumor may be customized according to the stage of the tumor and patient needs. Surgery is usually the first line of treatment for brain tumors.
One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat cancer or help relieve symptoms.
- Craniotomy: The most common surgery for brain tumors is a craniotomy, which involves opening the skull and removing the tumor.
- Surgery using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): When a brain tumor is in a challenging location, neurosurgeons may use this innovative open MRI system that allows them to view the tumor during surgery. This helps them remove as much of the tumor as possible without damaging other parts of the brain.
- Radiation therapy and chemotherapy: These may be able to stop or slow the growth of brain tumors that cannot be removed with surgery. Chemotherapy alone may be ineffective in treating brain tumors.
- Proton therapy: This delivers high radiation doses directly to the brain tumor site with no damage to nearby healthy tissues. It may be used to treat tumors in very sensitive areas, including in the base of the skull and along the spine.
- Laser interstitial thermal therapy: This is performed by implanting a laser catheter into the tumor and heating it to temperatures high enough to kill the tumor.
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.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Medscape Medical Reference
Begley, M. "When Is a Headache a Symptom of a Brain Tumor?" Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. <https://www.mskcc.org/news/when-headache-symptom-brain-tumor>.
"What Do Brain Tumor Headaches Feel Like?" Roswell Park. <https://www.roswellpark.org/cancertalk/202005/what-do-brain-tumor-headaches-feel>.
Top First Signs and Symptoms of a Brain Tumor Related Articles
Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults (Symptoms, Signs, Causes, Treatment Options, Life Expectancy)Brain and spinal tumor are diseases in which cancer (malignant) cells begin to grow in the tissues of the brain. Tumors that start in the brain are called primary brain tumors. Tumors that start in the brain and spread to other organs are called primary brain tumors. Symptoms may include headaches, personality changes, dizziness, and trouble walking. Treatment depends upon the type and grade of tumor.
Brain CancerCancers that form from brain tissue are called primary brain tumors. Brain tumors may be malignant (brain cancer) or benign. Certain risk factors, such as working in an oil refinery, as a chemist, or embalmer, increase the likelihood of developing brain cancer. Symptoms include headaches, weakness, seizures, difficulty walking, blurry vision, nausea,vomiting, and changes in speech, memory, or personality. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.
Brain Cancer: Tumor Signs, Symptoms, and TreatmentBrain cancer, types of which include primary or secondary cancer, involves invasive brain tumors including gliomas and glioblastomas. Learn the brain cancer survival rate, treatment options including chemotherapy, and the different brain tumor grades. Find out how the right treatment plan can fight cancerous brain tissue.
Brain Damage: Symptoms, Causes, TreatmentBrain damage causes destruction or deterioration of brain cells. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and acquired brain injury (ABI) are two kinds of brain damage. Symptoms may include headaches, confusion, memory problems, nausea, and more. Treatment includes patient stabilization and ensuring that blood and oxygen are flowing to the brain. Adequate blood pressure control is also necessary. In cases of severe brain damage, surgery and rehabilitation may be required.
Brain Lesions (Lesions on the Brain)A brain lesion is defined as an area of damaged brain. Brain lesions (lesions on the brain) are caused by trauma, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, cancers, other diseases, stroke, bleeding, pituitary adenomas, and cerebral palsy. Symptoms of brain lesions include headache, nausea, fever, neck pain and stiffness, affected vision and speech, and weakness or paralysis to one side of the body. Diagnosis of brain lesions is generally accomplished with imaging studies like CT or MRI scans. Treatment and prognosis of brain lesions depends on the cause of the lesion.
Brain PictureThe brain is one of the largest and most complex organs in the human body. See a picture of the Brain and learn more about the health topic.
10 Facts About the Amazing Brain QuizTake this brain quiz to learn about your amazing brain! It's the most complex part of your body, and is responsible for many functions, including how you behave!
Brain Tumor: Warning Symptoms, Types, Causes, Treatments, and CureA brain tumor can be either non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant), primary, or secondary. Common symptoms of a primary brain tumor are headaches, seizures, memory problems, personality changes, and nausea and vomiting. Causes and risk factors include age, gender, family history, and exposure to chemicals. Treatment is depends upon the tumor type, grade, and location.
Emflaza (deflazacort)Emflaza (deflazacort) is a prescription medicine used to treat the symptoms of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Serious side effects of Emflaza include hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat; mood changes, eye pain, excess thirst, increased appetite, increased urination, tiredness, blurry vision, and others.
How Conditions Change Your BrainThe brain doesn’t always stay the same. Mental disorders, health issues, and lifestyle habits can alter the way it looks and works.
How Do I Know if I Have Papilledema?What is papilledema and what are the symptoms? Learn the signs of papilledema, what causes it, how doctors diagnose it, and what you can do to treat it.
How Is a Lumbar Puncture Procedure Done?In a lumbar puncture (LP) procedure, or spinal tap, a hollow needle is inserted near the spinal cord to collect a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which can then help diagnose infections (meningitis), hemorrhage, multiple sclerosis, and tumors.
How the Brain Works: Test Your Medical IQTake this quiz and test your knowledge of how the human brain works. You may be surprised!
What Neurological Disorders Cause Loss of Bladder Control?Loss of bladder control is urinary incontinence. Severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine while straining, coughing or sneezing to having a frequent sudden urge to urinate. The causes of neurologic urinary incontinence include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke, brain tumor, spinal injury and heavy metal poisoning.
Nulibry (fosdenopterin)Nulibry (fosdenopterin) is cyclic pyranopterin monophosphate (cPMP) indicated to reduce the risk of mortality in patients with molybdenum cofactor deficiency (MoCD) Type A, a rare type of brain dysfunction (encephalopathy). Side effects of Nulibray include catheter-related complications, fever, viral infection, pneumonia, middle ear infection, vomiting, cough, sneezing, viral upper respiratory infection, gastroenteritis, bacteremia, and diarrhea.
selumetinib (Koselugo)Selumetinib (Koselugo) is a prescription medication used to treat children 2 years of age and older diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and have plexiform neurofibromas that cannot be completely removed by surgery. Serious side effects include heart problems, eye problems, severe diarrhea, skin rash, and muscle problems.
Temodar (temozolomide)Temodar (temozolomide) is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with certain brain cancer tumors. Temodar blocks cell growth, especially cells that grow fast, such as cancer cells. Temodar may decrease the size of certain brain tumors in some patients. Serious side effects of Temodar include decreased blood cells.
What Does a CT Head Scan Show?A computerized axial tomography (CAT) or computerized tomography (CT) scan uses a series of X-rays taken at different angles to produce a detailed image of the head and brain. A CT scan is done to study the patient’s skull, brain, jaw, sinuses, and facial bones, and to investigate tumors, head injuries, aneurysms, and other conditions.