Not all brain tumors cause symptoms, and some (such as tumors of the pituitary gland) are found mainly after death. The symptoms of brain tumors are numerous and not specific to brain tumors, meaning they can be caused by many other illnesses as well. The only way to know for sure what is causing the symptoms is to undergo diagnostic testing.
The symptoms are caused by the tumor pressing on or encroaching on other parts of your brain and keeping them from functioning normally.
Some symptoms are caused by swelling in the brain caused by the tumor or surrounding inflammation.
The symptoms of primary and metastatic brain cancers are similar.
The following symptoms are most common:
Other nonspecific symptoms and signs include the following:
Altered mental status - Changes in concentration, memory, attention, or alertness
Nausea, vomiting - Especially early in the morning
Abnormalities in vision
Difficulty with speech
Gradual changes in intellectual or emotional capacity
In many people, the onset of these symptoms is very gradual and may be missed by both the person with the brain tumor and the family. Occasionally, however, these symptoms appear more rapidly. In some instances, the person acts as if he or she is having stroke.
Brain Cancer Symptoms: When to Seek Medical Care
See your health care provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
Unexplained, persistent vomiting
Double vision or unexplained blurring of vision, especially on only one side
Lethargy or increased sleepiness
New pattern or type of headaches
Although headaches are thought to be a common symptom of brain cancer, they may not occur until late in the progression of the disease. If any significant change in your headache pattern occurs, your health care provider may suggest that you go the hospital.
If you have a known brain tumor, any new symptoms or relatively sudden or rapid worsening of symptoms warrants a trip to the nearest hospital emergency department. Be on the lookout for the following new symptoms:
Changes in mental status, such as excessive sleepiness, memory problems, or inability to concentrate
Visual changes or other sensory problems
Difficulty with speech or in expressing yourself
Changes in behavior or personality
Clumsiness or difficulty walking
Nausea or vomiting (especially in middle-aged or older people)
Sudden onset of fever, especially after chemotherapy.