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Brain Tumors

The brain controls the body. Each part of the brain has a role. When you have a tumor, the part of the brain surrounding it may be damaged as well as the affected brain cells. Then the brain can’t do its job properly.

Image of a brain tumor, frontal lobe, and ventricle
A tumor and the surrounding brain structures

What is a brain tumor?

A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells in the brain. There are many types of brain tumors. They may be primary (starting in the brain) or metastatic (traveling to the brain from another site in the body). All brain tumors are either benign (slow-growing, not cancerous) or malignant (growing quickly, cancerous). Brain tumors can cause serious damage even if they are labeled as benign. The damage will be related both to the type of tumor and to its location in the brain.

What causes symptoms?

Along with its location, the way a tumor grows can affect the symptoms you have. A tumor may affect the brain in one or more ways. It may:

  • Destroy normal brain tissue.

  • Compress normal brain tissue.

  • Increase pressure within the brain.

  • Excite brain cells and produce seizures.

  • Cause bleeding in the brain.

  • Block the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes the brain and spinal cord

Image of a man holding his hand to his head

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of brain tumors are:

  • Headaches that may be worse in the morning

  • Trouble thinking, remembering, or talking, or changes in personality

  • Vision, speech, or hearing problems

  • Seizures or convulsions causing numbness, weakness, or loss of consciousness

  • Paralysis or weakness in one part or on one side of the body

  • Loss of balance, lack of coordination, or problems walking

  • Nausea and vomiting that may be worse in the morning

  • Endocrine problems (many types)

  • Drowsiness

There are many different types of brain tumors with many different treatments and outcomes. Contact your doctor if you have any questions about your symptoms and whether they could indicate a tumor.

Online Medical Reviewer: Hanrahan, John, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 9/23/2013
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