Brain Tumor Symptoms

Common Signs

Symptoms of Brain Tumors
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Common brain tumor symptoms tend to be non-specific, mimicking other illnesses. Many times, symptoms don't immediately raise red flags that scream "brain tumor" to a physician. Brain tumors are rare, despite their increasing rate of diagnosis and because of this rarity, physicians often don't evaluate patients right off the bat for brain tumors. They may rule out other, less serious conditions initially.

Brain tumor symptoms vary greatly from person to person because of two factors: where the tumor is located and its size. The size of a tumor, however, does not effect the severity of symptoms. A very small tumor can cause severe symptoms. It is all relative to what part of the brain is affected.


Up to half of people with brain tumors suffer from headaches, but they are much more likely to be related to another benign condition. Headaches are not usually the initial symptom of a brain tumor or the only one experienced. Brain tumor headaches are often accompanied by other symptoms. Frequent headaches should not be ignored regardless of accompanying symptoms, especially those that worsen with sneezing, couching, or bending over. Read more about the characteristics of brain tumor headaches.


Vomiting, especially in the morning and without nausea, can be a symptom of a brain tumor.

Nausea, however, can also sometimes occur, it's just not as common. Like headaches, vomiting is a very vague symptom that could be caused by a number of things. With non-specific symptoms, it is ideal to keep a symptom journal to help you and your physician discover the triggers and patterns of such symptoms.

Personality or Mood Changes

Adults with brain tumors sometimes experience personality changes that are frustrating and can definitely interrupt daily living activities. Laughing at things that are not humorous, sudden increased interest in sex, temper tantrums, paranoia, and social decline are just a few of the possible personality changes that one may experience if they have a brain tumor. In contrast, personality changes can also mean an exaggeration of normal characteristics.


Up to a third of people report having seizures prior to being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Seizures cause the body to shake and tremor in varying intensity. They can also cause one to stare for several minutes or have a visual disturbance like flashing lights. Loss of consciousness can also occur. Though seizures are most likely caused by another condition like epilepsy or stroke, you must seek medical attention immediately if you believe you have had a seizure.

Cognitive Decline

Slower processing speed of the brain can be a symptom of a brain tumor.

If you find it takes you longer to complete tasks than it usually does, report it to your doctor. This isn't related to fatigue or lack of motivation. These are tasks that require thinking like simple math, writing sentences, setting up a chess board, or following a recipe. People with brain tumors may find it takes great effort to complete the most basic task. Memory loss and difficulty concentrating can be typical with some brain tumors, as well.

Vision and Hearing Problems

Some brain tumors can cause visual or hearing disturbances that are difficult to ignore. Problems with vision can include seeing flashing lights, blurring, and floaters. Hearing disturbances can include one-sided hearing loss and ringing in the ears.

Physical Changes

An adult with a brain tumor may experience weakness on one side of the body. He may become suddenly "clumsy" -- losing balance or walking into walls or stumbling. An abnormal gait may also be present. Coordinated movements may become difficult.

Speech Changes

Slurring of the words or slow speech can occur. A person with a brain tumor may say things that make very little sense, despite efforts to communicate with the correct words. Sentences may have words in the incorrect order or even include words that have no relevance. This lack of effective communication can be a frustrating symptom for people with brain tumors.

What to Do If Think You May Have a Brain Tumor

If you think that you may have a brain tumor, see your doctor. It is likely your symptoms are related to another condition, but these symptoms warrant an evaluation from your doctor. Do not be hesitant to share your concerns of having a brain tumor. This way your doctor can address your concerns early on and explain what he or she suspects is the cause of your symptoms and why.


American Cancer Society. Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults. June 20, 2011. Accessed June 23, 2011.

National Cancer Institute. What You Need to Know About Brain Tumors. Accessed June 23, 2011.

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