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What Are The Symptoms Of Brain Cancer

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What Causes A Brain Tumor

Signs and Symptoms of a Brain Tumor | Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Doctors are not sure what causes most brain tumors. Mutations or defects in genes may cause cells in the brain to grow uncontrollably, causing a tumor.

The only known environmental cause of brain tumors is having exposure to large amounts of radiation from X-rays or previous cancer treatment. Some brain tumors occur when hereditary conditions are passed down among family members.

What Are The Symptoms

Symptoms depend on where the tumour is in the brain and how slowly or quickly the tumour is growing. It can develop suddenly or gradually over time. Many symptoms are likely to be caused by other factors, but see your doctor about any new, persistent or worsening symptoms.

General symptoms Brain tumours can increase pressure inside the skull . Pressure can build up because the tumour itself is taking up too much space or because it is blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain.

This increased pressure can lead to symptoms such as:

  • headaches often worse when you wake up
  • nausea and vomiting often worse in the morning or after changing position
  • confusion and irritability
  • blurred or double vision
  • seizures might have some jerking or twitching of your hands, arms or legs, or can affect the whole body
  • loss of consciousness
  • weakness in parts of the body
  • drowsiness a later symptom.

Symptoms caused by the position of the tumour Other symptoms depend on where the tumour is located in the brain or spinal cord.

Which health professionals will I see?

When To See A Healthcare Provider/go To The Hospital

If you have concerning neurological symptoms, you should talk to your healthcare provider. A prompt diagnosis gives you the best chance of having a good outcome.

And if you have already been diagnosed with brain cancer, its important that you and the people who take care of you learn to recognize the signs of complications or worsening brain cancer so you can get the medical care you need.

Signs that you should see a healthcare provider if you have brain cancer include:

  • Persistent vomiting
  • Swelling of any part of your body
  • A new seizure or worsening seizures

You and the people you live with should also know how to recognize the side effects of cancer treatments that you are receiving that may warrant medical intervention.

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Guide To The Symptoms Of Brain Cancer

Brain cancer is a malignancy that begins in the cells of an individual’s brain tissues. These tissues include the cells that make up the membranes, blood vessels, and bones that surround or are inside of the brain. Secondary brain cancer can occur when a malignancy that begins in another part of an individual’s body spreads to the tissues in their brain. Common types of brain cancer include gliomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, medulloblastomas, CNS lymphomas, and vestibular schwannomas. Certain factors can increase the risk of developing brain cancer, including certain genetic factors, HIV infection, cigarette smoking, exposure to certain environmental toxins, and radiation exposure to the head. Brain cancer is diagnosed using a contrast CT scan, blood tests, MRIs, urine tests, and tissue biopsy. Treatment methods for brain cancer depend on the tumor stage, tumor location, and the patient’s prognosis.

Uncover the serious symptoms associated with brain cancer now.

Consulting A Healthcare Provider

10 Most Common Brain Tumor Symptoms: Signs of Brain Cancer

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have persistent symptoms that are concerning you. If you suspect a brain tumor, it is best to see a provider as soon as possible to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.


Having a journal of the symptoms you have been experiencing, including frequency and time frame, can help your provider better diagnose you. Aim to bring your notes to appointments to help you remember everything you would like to discuss. Download our Symptom Tracker to bring with you to your appointment.

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Diagnosis Of Brain Cancer

If a brain tumour is suspected, the doctor may check how different parts of the brain are functioning by checking your reflexes, muscle strength, balance and coordination, ability to feel pin-pricks and to distinguish between hot and cold. An opthalmoscope is used to view the optic nerve, which may bulge if the pressure in the skull is raised, for example by a tumour.

The main tests for brain cancer diagnosis are:

Symptoms Of Tumors In Different Parts Of The Brain Or Spinal Cord

Tumors in different parts of the brain or spinal cord can cause different symptoms. But these symptoms can be caused by any abnormality in that particular location they do not always mean a person has a brain or spinal cord tumor.

  • Tumors in the parts of the cerebrum that control movement or sensation can cause weakness or numbness of part of the body, often on just one side.
  • Tumors in or near the parts of the cerebrum responsible for language can cause problems with speech or even understanding words.
  • Tumors in the front part of the cerebrum can sometimes affect thinking, personality, and language.
  • If the tumor is in the cerebellum , a person might have trouble walking trouble with precise movements of hands, arms, feet, and legs problems swallowing or synchronizing eye movements and changes in speech rhythm.
  • Tumors in the back part of the cerebrum, or around the pituitary gland, the optic nerve, or certain other cranial nerves can cause vision problems.
  • Tumors in or near other cranial nerves might lead to hearing loss , balance problems, weakness of some facial muscles, facial numbness or pain, or trouble swallowing.
  • Spinal cord tumors can cause numbness, weakness, or lack of coordination in the arms and/or legs , as well as bladder or bowel problems.

The brain also controls functions of some other organs, including hormone production, so brain tumors can also cause many other symptoms not listed here.

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Types Of Brain Tumors

Primary brain tumors come from cells that make up the brain and central nervous system. Theyâre named for the kind of cell in which they first form. There are more than 100 kinds of brain tumors. The most common types in adults are:

  • Gliomas. These tumors start in the glial cells, which are cells that help keep nerves healthy. Theyâre most often cancer. There are several categories of gliomas, based on which specific cells they target. Astrocytomas are most common in adults. A glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of glial tumor.
  • Meningiomas. These form in the meninges, the thin layer of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. They arenât cancer, but they can cause problems by pressing on your brain.
  • Schwannomas. These damage the protective coating of nerve cells. They arenât cancer, but they often cause hearing loss or problems with balance.
  • Pituitary adenomas. These form on the pituitary gland, which sits at the base of your brain. It makes important hormones. These tumors usually arenât cancer and are slow growing.

Central Nervous System Lymphoma

Signs and Symptoms of Brain Tumors

Central nervous system lymphoma is a type of brain cancer may develop in people who have an impaired immune system. Symptoms can include personality changes, headaches, diabetes insipidus , as well as the other symptoms usually associated with brain cancer.

Brain Tumor Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disfigurement of the head and/or face

These complications may rapidly worsen and can be life-threatening. Brain cancer can bleed, and may lead to inflammation in the brain, increasing intracranial pressure. The most life-threatening effects of many types of cancer are often due to brain metastasis and increased intracranial pressure.

In some cases, herniation of the brain can occur. This is when the brain is pushed into the spinal cord due to severe pressure from the tumor, fluid, inflammation, and/or bleeding. Signs of brain herniation include rapid breathing and contracted, stiffened posture of the body.

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Symptoms Based On Tumor Location

Some symptoms can provide insights into where the tumor might be located within the brain.

  • Vision problems. Vision problems can be due to a tumor located in or around the pituitary gland, optic nerve, occipital lobe, or temporal lobe.
  • Speech, reading, and writing difficulties. These difficulties may be caused by a tumor near the temporal lobe or parietal lobe.
  • Hearing problems. These may be caused by a tumor near the cranial nerves or temporal lobe.
  • Swallowing problems. There may be a tumor near the cerebellum or in or near cranial nerves.
  • Trouble with movement in the hands, arms, feet, and legs, or difficulty walking. This could be caused by a tumor near the cerebellum, frontal lobe, or brainstem.
  • Balance issues. Balance issues may indicate a tumor near the cerebellum, brainstem, or the base of the brain.
  • Facial numbness, weakness, or pain. This may also occur with a tumor involving the brainstem.

What Are Brain Tumors

A tumor in the brain isnt like tumors in other parts of your body. It has limited room for growth because of the skull. This means that a growing tumor can squeeze vital parts of the brain and lead to serious health problems. Learning about the possible symptoms of brain tumors can help you know when to tell a doctor about them.

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What Are The Types Of Brain Tumors

Doctors classify brain and central nervous system tumors based on where they form and the kind of cells they involve.

Brain tumors that are usually benign include:

  • Acoustic neuroma:These tumors occur on the vestibular nerve . Acoustic neuromas are also called vestibular schwannomas.
  • Gangliocytoma: These central nervous system tumors form in neurons .
  • Meningioma:These are the most common type of primary brain tumors. Meningiomas develop slowly. They form in the meninges, the layers of tissue that protect the brain and spinal cord. In rare cases, a meningioma can be malignant.
  • Pineocytoma: These slow-growing tumors form in the pineal gland, which is located deep in the brain and secretes the hormone melatonin.
  • Pituitary adenoma: These tumors form in the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland makes and controls hormones in the body. Pituitary adenomas are usually very small.
  • Chordoma: These slow-growing tumors typically begin at the base of the skull and the bottom part of the spine. They are mostly benign .

Cancerous brain tumors include:

  • Glioma:These tumors develop in glial cells, which surround and assist nerve cells. Two-thirds of cancerous primary brain tumors are gliomas. Types of gliomas include:
  • Astrocytoma: Astrocytomas form in glial cells called astrocytes.
  • Glioblastoma: Aggressive astrocytomas that grow quickly are glioblastomas.
  • Oligodendroglioma: These uncommon tumors begin in cells that create myelin .

What Are The Different Grades Of Brain Tumors

Causes and Symptoms of Brain Cancer

Brain tumor grade describes how aggressive a tumor is and how likely it is to spread. Brain tumors may be given a grade of 1 through 4. The lower the grade of a tumor, the better the expected prognosis. Grade 1 brain tumors are considered low grade. They grow slowly, are the least malignant cells, and are unlikely to spread. Surgically removing these tumors may be curative. Grade 2 tumors have slightly abnormal cells, but they do not contain dead cells or actively dividing cells. Grade 2 tumors are not generally cancerous. Grade 3 tumors are cancerous and contain actively dividing abnormal brain cells. Grade 4 tumors are considered high grade and they are aggressive and cancerous.

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Watchful Waiting May Be Appropriate

If a patient’s brain tumor is slow growing and is not causing any problems, it may not require immediate treatment. In these cases, watchful waiting may be appropriate. This involves monitoring the tumor with testing and tracking the patient’s symptoms. If the tumor increases in size and/or starts to cause new symptoms, further treatment may be necessary.

After A Diagnosis Of Brain Cancer

After finding out you have brain cancer, you may feel shocked, upset, anxious or confused. These are normal responses. A diagnosis of brain cancer affects each person differently. For most it will be a difficult time, however some people manage to continue with their normal daily activities.

Your specialist will arrange for a range of health professionals to plan your treatment. This will be based on several factors including the type, size, location and genetic make-up of the cancer as well as, your age and general health, the types of symptoms you have and your needs and preferences.

Find out more about the best cancer care for brain cancer:

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Symptoms Of A Brain Tumor

Brain tumor symptoms differ depending on the type of growth that the patient has and where it is located in the brain. Symptoms may include unusual behavior, confusion, sleep difficulties, seizures, and balance problems. People with brain tumors may suffer from vision changes, nausea, vomiting, hearing loss, twitching, and memory problems. Some people may even get seizures and lose consciousness. Other symptoms may include muscle weakness, numbness, personality changes, and paralysis. Some people with brain tumors develop headaches that are often worse in the morning.

The main parts of the brain are the brain stem, cerebrum, and cerebellum. If a tumor is in the cerebrum, symptoms like personality changes, seizures, weakness, and paralysis may occur. An astrocytoma is a brain cancer that arises from the glial cells in the cerebrum. A tumor in the cerebellum may lead to difficulties with movement. Children and young adults tend to get low-grade astrocytomas while high-grade astrocytomas are more likely to occur in adults. Brain tumor symptoms may include double vision, weakness, and trouble swallowing when the growth is in the brain stem. See your doctor right away if you develop symptoms that may indicate that you have a brain tumor like numbness, loss of balance, confusion, and other troubling symptoms.

Symptoms Caused By The Position Of A Tumour

Brain Cancer Symptoms

Different areas of the brain control different functions, so the symptoms caused by a brain tumour will depend on where the tumour is located. For example, a tumour affecting:

  • the frontal lobe may cause changes in personality, weakness in one side of the body and loss of smell
  • the temporal lobe may cause forgetfulness, language problems and seizures
  • the parietal lobe may cause aphasia and numbness or weakness in one side of the body
  • the occipital lobe may cause loss of vision on one side
  • the cerebellum may cause a loss of co-ordination, flickering of the eyes, vomiting and a stiff neck
  • the brain stem may cause unsteadiness and difficulty walking, facial weakness, double vision, and difficulty speaking and swallowing

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How Is A Brain Tumor Diagnosed

Doctors perform a series of tests to diagnose suspected brain tumors.

First, they perform a physical and neurological exam. This includes simple testslike assessments of motor skills and sensesthat may help to identify the part of the brain or CNS thats involved.

Next, diagnostic images are obtained to confirm that a tumor exists, and if it does, to evaluate its location, size and effect on surrounding tissue. Sometimes, a positron emission tomography scan, which can tell how your tissues and organs are functioning, is used to check for cancer. Before a PET scan is obtained, a radioactive substance is injected into the patients veinthat tracer enables cancer cells to stand out on the image.

Finally, a sample of the tumor is collected either at the time of tumor removal or by a less invasive technique called stereotactic biopsy, in which the doctor inserts a needle into a targeted area of the brain. A pathologist studies the tumor tissue under a microscope to determine whether its cancer and, if it is, what type.

Doctors take all these steps to ensure they get the right diagnosisthe treatment strategy hinges on the type of tumor and how aggressively it is likely to behave.

Other Types Of Primary Brain Tumors

Meningiomas, gliomas, and glioblastomas are the main kinds of primary brain tumors but there are others. They arise from different areas in the brain. Adenomas are tumors that occur in the pituitary gland. Chordomas are primary brain tumors that occur in the spine and skull. Sarcomas are primary brain tumors that arise from the dura , cartilage, or bones. Medulloblastomas are primary brain tumors that arise from the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain in the back of the skull.

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Should You Ask For A Second Opinion Before You Start Treatment For A Brain Tumor

Before starting treatment, you might want a second opinion about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Some people worry that the doctor will be offended if they ask for a second opinion. Usually the opposite is true. Most doctors welcome a second opinion. And many health insurance companies will pay for a second opinion if you or your doctor requests it. Some companies require a second opinion.

If you get a second opinion, the doctor may agree with your first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Or the second doctor may suggest another approach. Either way, you’ll have more information and perhaps a greater sense of control. You can feel more confident about the decisions you make, knowing that you’ve looked at your options.

It may take some time and effort to gather your medical records and see another doctor. In many cases, it’s not a problem to take several weeks to get a second opinion. The delay in starting treatment usually won’t make treatment less effective. To make sure, you should discuss this delay with your doctor. Some people with a brain tumor need treatment right away.

There are many ways to find a doctor for a second opinion. You can ask your doctor, a local or state medical society, a nearby hospital, or a medical school for names of specialists.

Also, you can request a consultation with specialists at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

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