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People with a brain tumor may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with a brain tumor do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not a brain tumor. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your doctor.
Symptoms of a brain tumor can be general (caused by the pressure of the tumor on the brain or spinal cord) or specific (caused a specific part of the brain not working normally). For many people with a brain tumor, they were diagnosed when they went to the doctor because of certain symptoms.
General symptoms include:
- Headaches, which may be severe and may worsen with activity or in the early morning
- Seizures. Motor seizures, also called convulsions, are sudden involuntary movements of a person's muscles. People may experience different types of seizures, including myclonic and tonic-clonic (grand mal). Certain drugs can help prevent or control them. The differences between these types of seizures can be found below:
- Single or multiple muscle twitches, jerks, spasms
- Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal)
- Loss of consciousness and body tone, followed by twitching and relaxing muscles contractions
- Loss of control of body functions
- May be short period of no breathing (30 seconds) and person may turn a shade of blue
- After this type of seizure a person may be sleepy and experience a headache, confusion, weakness, numbness, and sore muscles.
- Change in sensation, vision, smell, and/or hearing without losing consciousness
- Complex partial
- May cause a loss of awareness or a partial or total loss of consciousness
- May be associated with repetitive, unintentional movements, such as twitching
- Personality or memory changes
- Nausea or vomiting
Symptoms that may be specific to the location of the tumor include:
- Pressure or headache near the tumor
- Loss of balance and difficulty with fine motor skills (cerebellum)
- Changes in judgment, including loss of initiative, sluggishness, and muscle weakness or paralysis (frontal lobe of the cerebrum)
- Partial or complete loss of vision (occipital lobe or temporal lobe of the cerebrum)
- Changes in speech, hearing, memory, or emotional state, such as aggressiveness and problems understanding or retrieving words (frontal and temporal lobe of cerebrum)
- Altered perception of touch or pressure, arm or leg weakness on one side of the body, or confusion with left and right sides of the body (frontal or parietal lobe of the cerebrum)
- Inability to look upward (pineal tumor)
- Lactation (secretion of breast milk) and altered menstrual periods in women, and growth in hands and feet in adults (pituitary tumor)
- Difficulty swallowing, facial weakness or numbness, or double vision (brain stem)
- Vision changes, including loss of part of the vision or double vision (temporal lobe, occipital lobe, or brain stem)
Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you've been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.
If a tumor is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of your care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms. Learn more about managing symptoms of a brain tumor in the Treatment section.