Brain Tumour Symptoms

Brain Tumour Symptoms

Brain Tumour symptoms vary from patient to patient, and most of these symptoms can also be found in people who do NOT have brain tumours. Therefore, the only sure way to tell if you have a brain tumour or not is to see your doctor and get a brain scan.

Al Musella at did a survey of about 375 brain tumour patients to learn what symptoms they had that caused them to seek medical care. You can see the full results by clicking here. The survey is ongoing, and you can participate by going to symptomssurvey.cfm. The results below are as of 25/2/2003.

They reported:

  • Headaches: This was the most common symptom, with 46% of the patients reporting having headaches. They described the headaches in many different ways; with no one pattern being a sure sign of brain tumour. Many - perhaps most - people get headaches at some point in their life, so this is not a definite sign of brain tumours. You should mention it to your doctors if the headaches are: different from those you ever had before, are accompanied by Nausea / vomiting, are made worse by bending over or straining when going to the bathroom.(1)
  • Seizures: This was the second most common symptom reported, with 33% of the patients reporting a Seizure before the diagnosis was made. Seizures can also be caused by other things, like Epilepsy, high fevers, stroke, trauma, and other disorders. (3) This is a symptom that should never be ignored, whatever the cause. In a person who never had a seizure before, it usually indicates something serious and you must get a brain scan.

    A seizure is a sudden, involuntary change in behaviour, muscle control, consciousness, and/or sensation. Symptoms of a seizure can range from sudden, violent shaking and total loss of consciousness to muscle twitching or slight shaking of a limb. Staring into space, altered vision, and difficulty in speaking are some of the other behaviours that a person may exhibit while having a seizure. Approximately 10% of the U.S. population will experience a single seizure in their lifetime.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: As with headaches, these are non-specific - which means that most people who have nausea and vomiting do NOT have a brain tumour. Twenty-two percent of the people in our survey reported that they had nausea and /or vomiting as a symptom.

    Nausea and / or vomiting are more likely to point towards a brain tumour if it is accompanied by the other symptoms mentioned here.
  • Vision or hearing problems: Twenty-five percent reported vision problems. This one is easy - if you notice any problem with your hearing or vision, it must be checked out. I commonly hear that the eye doctor is the first one to make the diagnosis - because when they look in your eyes, they can sometimes see signs of increased Intracranial Pressure. This must be investigated.
  • Problems with weakness of the arms, legs or face muscles, and strange sensations in your head or hands. Twenty-five percent reported weakness of the arms and/or legs. Sixteen percent reported strange feelings in the head, and 9% reported strange feelings in the hands. This may result in an altered gait, dropping objects, falling, or an asymmetric facial expression. These could also be symptoms of a stroke. Sudden onset of these symptoms is an emergency - you should go to the emergency room. If you notice a gradual change over time, you must report it to your doctor.
  • Behavioural and Cognitive problems: Many reported behavioural and cognitive changes, such as: problems with recent memory, inability to concentrate or finding the right words, acting out - no patience or tolerance, and loss of inhibitions - saying or doing things that are not appropriate for the situation.

If you think something is wrong, go see your doctor. Explain that you are worried it is a brain tumour. Keep in mind that brain tumours are relatively rare compared to most other disorders, so the primary care doctor is not usually going to be thinking it is a brain tumour. They first think of more common causes of the symptoms. Sixty-four percent of the time, the doctor thought it was NOT a brain tumour when respondents first went to the doctor. More than half of the people reported that they had the symptoms for more than a month before the correct diagnosis of brain tumour was made. With the Malignant brain tumours, a delay of a month in starting treatment can make a major impact on the outcome.

There is a more detailed paper on brain tumour symptoms at:

This information is reproduced with the kind permission of Al Musella of the Musella Foundation and

This page was last modified on 25th November 2011 at 01:25


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