Symptoms of a Brain Tumor

The following are the most common symptoms of a brain tumor. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms vary depending on the size and location of tumor. Many symptoms are related to an increase in pressure in or around the brain. There is no spare space in the skull for anything except the delicate tissues of the brain and its fluid. Any tumor, extra tissue, or fluid can cause pressure on the brain and result in increased intracranial pressure (ICP), which may result from one or more of the ventricles that drain cerebral spinal fluid (CSF, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) becoming blocked and causing the fluid to be trapped in the brain. This increased ICP may cause the following:

  • headache
  • vomiting (usually in the morning)
  • nausea
  • personality changes
  • irritability
  • drowsiness
  • depression
  • decreased cardiac and respiratory function and, eventually, coma if not treated

Symptoms of brain tumors in the cerebrum (front of brain) may include:

  • increased intracranial pressure (ICP)
  • seizures
  • visual changes
  • slurred speech
  • paralysis or weakness on half of the body or face
  • drowsiness and/or confusion
  • personality changes/impaired judgment
  • short-term memory loss
  • gait disturbances
  • communication problems

Symptoms of brain tumors in the brainstem (middle of brain) may include:

  • increased intracranial pressure (ICP)
  • seizures
  • endocrine problems (diabetes and/or hormone regulation)
  • visual changes or double vision
  • headaches
  • paralysis of nerves/muscles of the face, or half of the body
  • respiratory changes
  • clumsy, uncoordinated walk
  • hearing loss
  • personality changes

Symptoms of brain tumors in the cerebellum (back of brain) may include:

  • increased intracranial pressure (ICP)
  • vomiting (usually occurs in the morning without nausea)
  • headache
  • uncoordinated muscle movements
  • problems walking (ataxia)

The symptoms of a brain tumor may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

What causes brain tumors?

The majority of brain tumors have abnormalities of genes involved in cell cycle control, causing uncontrolled cell growth. These abnormalities are caused by alterations directly in the genes, or by chromosome rearrangements which change the function of a gene.

Patients with certain genetic conditions (i.e., neurofibromatosis, von Hippel-Lindau disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, and retinoblastoma) also have an increased risk to develop tumors of the central nervous system. There have also been some reports of people in the same family developing brain tumors who do not have any of these genetic syndromes.

Research has been investigating parents of children with brain tumors and their past exposure to certain chemicals. Some chemicals may change the structure of a gene that protects the body from diseases and cancer. Workers in oil refining, rubber manufacturing, and chemists have a higher incidence of certain types of tumors. Which, if any, chemical toxin is related to this increase in tumors is unknown at this time.

Patients who have received radiation therapy to the head as part of prior treatment for other malignancies are also at an increased risk for new brain tumors.

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