• Symptoms of Brain Tumors

    There are many possible symptoms from brain tumors , including:
    • Headaches
    • Cognitive and behavioral changes
    • Other physical and neurological symptoms


    Headache is a common symptom of brain tumor. It is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Often, these headaches are more pronounced when first awakening in the morning, and they may even wake patients during sleep. The headaches may be associated with visual changes, particularly double vision and sudden loss of vision. These headaches can be worsened with Valsalva (a method that involves holding your breath and straining).

    Cognitive and Behavioral Changes

    The types of cognitive and behavioral changes that occur depend on the area of the brain being affected by tumor and swelling. As a tumor grows, changes can occur in:
    • Vision
    • Memory
    • Comprehension and/or expression of language
    • Sensation and processing of sensory input
    • Personality (including both increased apathy and impulsivity)
    • Apraxia (inability to do learned movements or gestures)
    • Ability to process information

    Other Physical and Neurological Symptoms

    Location of tumor (as well as any swelling around the tumor) is responsible for the types of symptoms patients have. Changes in normal function may include:
    • Difficulty with coordination and walking
    • Difficulty controlling bowels and bladder
    • Weakness or loss of sensation in parts of the body
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Lethargy/fatigue
    • Drowsiness

    Sudden Events—Seizures and Strokes

    • Generalized or major motor seizures —These can cause you to pass out and shake violently. You may lose control of your urine or bowels and bite your tongue. These seizures begin in one part of the brain, but spread throughout the brain.
    • Focal seizures—These type of seizures cause one part of your body, like an arm, to shake uncontrollably. These seizures may start out in one area and progress to generalized seizures. Focal seizures may also occur without any convulsive (shaking) activity. They may or may not involve alteration of consciousness.
    Without any shaking, part of your body may just stop working suddenly. This is similar to the symptoms individuals may have during a stroke , but it may be caused by the brain tumor, swelling around the brain tumor, or stroke.
    Some seizures are very quick alterations of consciousness and do not involve any convulsive activity (shaking).
    These symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions. Discuss them with your doctor.


    Goetz C, Pappert E. Textbook of Clinical Neurology . Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 1999.

    Harrison T, Fauci A. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1998.

    Seizures. American Brain Tumor Association website. Available at: http://www.abta.org/TumorTreatment%5FInfo/Seizures/238 . Accessed August 4, 2009.

    Revision Information

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