Brain Tumor Early Symptoms

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Early brain tumor symptoms may include:

  • Seizures – The abnormal tissue found in a brain tumor can disrupt the normal flow of electricity through which brain cells communicate. The resulting bursts of electrical activity cause seizures with a variety of symptoms, such as convulsions, loss of consciousness, or loss of bladder control. Seizures that first start in adulthood (in a patient who has not been in an accident or had an illness that causes seizures) are a key warning sign of brain tumors. Sometimes, seizures are the only sign of a slowly growing brain tumor.
  • Headaches – More than half of people with brain tumors experience headaches. Because the skull cannot expand, the growing mass places pressure on pain-sensitive areas. The headaches recur, often at irregular periods, and can last several minutes or hours. They may worsen when coughing, changing posture, or straining and may be worse in the morning. As the tumor grows, headaches often last longer, become more frequent, and grow more severe.
  • Nausea and Vomiting – Increased pressure within the skull can cause nausea and vomiting. These symptoms sometimes accompany headaches.
  • Balance Problems – Brain tumors that disrupt the normal control of equilibrium can cause dizziness or difficulty with balance.
  • Behavioral or Cognitive Problems – Because they strike at the core of the individual’s identity, changes in behavior and personality can be the most frightening and devastating symptoms of a brain tumor. These symptoms usually occur when the tumor is located in the brain’s cerebral hemispheres, which are responsible, in part, for personality, communication, thinking, behavior, and other vital functions. Examples include problems with speech, language, thinking, and memory, or psychotic episodes and changes in personality.
  • Motor problems – When tumors affect brain areas responsible for command of body movement, they can cause motor symptoms, including weakness or paralysis, lack of coordination, or trouble with walking. Often, muscle weakness or paralysis affects only one side of the body.
  • Vision or Hearing Problems – Increased intracranial pressure can also decrease blood flow in the eye and trigger swelling of the optic nerve, which in turn causes blurred vision, double vision, or partial visual loss. Tumors growing on or near sensory nerves often trigger visual or hearing disturbances, such as ringing or buzzing sounds, abnormal eye movements or crossed eyes, and partial or total loss of vision or hearing. Tumors that grow in the brain’s occipital lobe, which interprets visual images, may also cause partial vision loss.
  • Smelling a strange burning odor – People with brain tumors often report the smell of burning rubber with no source for the odor.

Information obtained from the following sources:

Central Brain Tumor Registry of the U.S (CBTRUS –
American Cancer Society,
National Institutes of Health,
Search Spring 2008, Issue #75 – Publication by the National Brain Tumor Society