7 Warning Signs of a Brain Tumor   

7 Warning Signs of a Brain Tumor

Older woman grasps the sides of her head due to a headache.

October 22, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Shabbar Danish, M.D., FAANS

Your chances of developing a cancerous brain or spinal cord tumor is less than 1 percent, according to the American Cancer Association. But that doesn’t always calm your fears when you’ve got a pounding headache. So what should you be looking out for?

Shabbar Danish, M.D. FAANS, Chair of Neurosurgery at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, offers seven of the more common signs of a brain tumor:

  1. Headaches. Everyone has a headache on occasion. Some people get them more often than others. But a headache that may signal something’s amiss is one that:
  • Won’t go away with pain medication
  • Makes you throw up
  • Wakes you up from sleep
  • Gets worse in the morning and lessens during the day

Pay particular attention to a headache if you have other neurological symptoms, such as weakness or loss of coordination.

  1. Seizures. A tumor can irritate parts of the brain, leading to a seizure. Seizures are often the first signal of a brain tumor. In fact, about three out of every 10 people with a brain tumor were diagnosed after having a seizure. During a seizure you may experience vision changes like seeing floating spots or shapes, uncontrollable jerking, a brief lapse in memory or confusion, and/or a tingling in the arm or leg.

  1. Changes in motor function. This could include trouble speaking, understanding, hearing, seeing, swallowing or remembering. It could also involve twitching, muscle-jerking, balance, stiffness or coordination issues.

  1. Mood changes. Brain tumors often cause personality changes, sudden mood swings and lapses in concentration.

  1. Weakness or numbness in the face, arms or legs. The brain plays an important role in feeling sensations throughout the body. So brain tumors can cause numbness and tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs and feet.

  1. Ringing in the ears. Ringing in the ears and dizziness can occur with some brain tumors, although these are usually indirect symptoms.

  1. Loss of smell. Loss of smell could be linked to a brain tumor.

When to Seek Care

If you think you might have a brain tumor, keep a diary of what’s going on. Be sure to include your symptoms, how often they happen and when. “It’s very likely that you don’t have a brain tumor, but any worrisome neurological symptoms should always be checked out,” says Dr. Danish.

Regardless of the rarity of brain tumors, it is important to recognize the symptoms and see a doctor if you think anything’s off. “Signs of a tumor vary, depending on the tumor’s location and size, and the early symptoms can be obscure,” Dr. Danish says“But the quicker we find a tumor and start treatment, the better your outcome will be, so we’d always rather you come in if you think you may have a tumor, rather than brush it off.”

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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