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What Are the Symptoms of a Brain Tumor?

Brain tumor symptoms depend on the size and location of the tumor. These symptoms are caused by the damage the tumor does to specific parts of the brain.

Focal neurological symptoms can occur as a result of a tumor in a specific part of the brain. These are some examples of this type of symptom:

  • Weakness on 1 side of the body

  • Difficulty talking

  • A limited field of vision

Photo of a woman expressing pain.
About half of people with brain tumors complain of headaches.

As the tumor grows, these other symptoms may arise from increased pressure within the skull:

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Swelling around the tumor, called edema, can aggravate the symptoms caused by the tumor itself. When the tumor blocks the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, the chambers, also called ventricles, of the brain enlarge. This causes a condition called hydrocephalus.

If a brain tumor grows slowly, its symptoms might appear very gradually so that you might not notice them for a long time. Here are the most common symptoms of a brain tumor:

  • Headaches. These will usually be worse in the morning. The headaches may wake you up in the middle of the night. They will often become less painful as the day goes on. About half of people with brain tumors complain of headaches. These headaches tend not to cause the sensitivity to light and sound typical of a migraine.

  • Fainting (syncope). This may be caused by increased intracranial pressure. 

  • Seizures, which are uncontrollable convulsions of the body

  • Nausea with or without vomiting. The latter is more typical in children.

  • Weakness or loss of feeling in the arms, legs, or both

  • Stumbling or inability to walk

  • Changes in vision or abnormal eye movements

  • Changes in personality, memory, or speech

  • Changes in alertness, from increased sleepiness to coma

If you have any of these symptoms see a doctor right away. It is important to remember that these symptoms may be caused by other, less serious problems. Headaches are common and most are not caused by brain tumors. Less than 10% of first seizures in adults are caused by a brain tumor.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 9/29/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.