At Advanced Neurosurgical Associates, we are often asked how patients are evaluated for brain tumors. This brings up the question of brain tumor symptoms. Many of our patients, whether the family of a pediatric patient or adult patient, inquire about symptoms.
Symptoms of a brain tumor can be general or specific. A general symptom is caused by the pressure of the tumor on the brain or spinal cord. On the other hand, when a specific part of the brain is not functioning normally because of a tumor, it may result in specific symptoms. Some tumors may not cause symptoms until they are quite large. Then they can quickly damage a patient’s health. Other tumors have symptoms that develop slowly. For many people with a brain tumor, diagnosis occurs after visiting the doctor due to experiencing a problem or symptom, such as a headache or other changes.
Sometimes, people with a brain tumor do not show any typical symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not a brain tumor, which is not uncommon since these symptoms may be indicative of various conditions. Of course, if a person is concerned about any suspicious symptoms, he/she should speak with a doctor.
Brain tumor symptoms depend on tumor size, type, and location. Symptoms may be caused when a tumor presses on a nerve or harms a part of the brain. Also, they may be caused when a tumor blocks the fluid that flows through and around the brain, or when the brain swells because of the buildup of fluid, causing excess pressure on the skull.
General signs and symptoms caused by brain tumors may include:
- New onset or change in pattern of headaches
- Headaches that gradually become more frequent and more severe, especially with activity or early in the morning
- Unexplained nausea or vomiting
- Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
- Gradual loss of sensation or movement in an arm or a leg
- Difficulty with balance
- Speech difficulties
- Confusion in everyday routine matters
- Personality, memory or behavior changes
- Difficulty swallowing, facial weakness or numbness
- Seizures, especially in someone without a history of seizures
- Hearing difficulties
Other symptoms that may occur with a pituitary tumor (on the pituitary gland; these tumors are usually benign.)
- Abnormal nipple discharge
- Absent menstruation (periods)
- Breast development in men
- Enlarged hands, feet
- Excessive body hair
- Facial changes
- Low blood pressure
- Sensitivity to heat or cold
Pediatric Brain Tumors
At Advanced Neurosurgical Associates, parents and caregivers often lament that they did not recognize any signs or symptoms that their child had a brain tumor. We understand the challenge. Children may not recognize symptoms of illness, ignore them, or be too young to communicate them. Therefore, parents or caretakers should make certain children have regular medical checkups and be alert themselves to signs that indicate something might be seriously wrong with a child.
Still, it can be difficult. How does a parent distinguish between a relatively minor illness and a serious one, such as a brain tumor or cancer? If a child has any of the following persistent symptoms, it is recommended to seek medical attention. Of course, these symptoms can occur for reasons other than serious illness. Therefore, if a doctor is not able to determine the cause, seek a second opinion.
- Fatigue, listlessness or pallor
- Swelling or lumps anywhere on the body
- Nausea or loss of appetite
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Change in disposition, e.g., whining or crying spells, unusual irritability
- Regression of toilet habits
- Stumbling or falling
- Double vision or other eye problems
- Easy and frequent bruising
- Nosebleeds or bleeding from any part of the body
Source: National Cancer Institute