Common brain tumor symptoms tend to be non-specific, mimicking other illnesses. Many times, symptoms don’t immediately raise red flags that scream “brain tumor” to a physician. Brain tumors are rare, despite their increasing rate of diagnosis and because of this rarity, physicians often don’t evaluate patients right off the bat for brain tumors. They may rule out other, less serious conditions initially.
Brain tumor symptoms vary greatly from person to person because of two factors: where the tumor is located and its size. The size of a tumor, however, does not effect severity of symptoms. A very small tumor can cause severe symptoms. It is all relative to what part of the brain is affected.
Headaches: Up to half of people with brain tumors suffer from headaches, but they are much more likely to be related to another benign condition. Headaches are not usually the initial symptom of a brain tumor or the only one experienced. Brain tumor headaches are often accompanied by other symptoms. Frequent headaches should not be ignored regardless of accompanying symptoms, especially those that worsen with sneezing, couching, or bending over. Read more about the characteristics of brain tumor headaches.
Vomiting: Vomiting, especially in the morning and without nausea, can be a symptom of a brain tumor. Nausea, however, can be present, just not as common as without. Like headaches, this is a very vague symptom that could be caused by a number of things. With non-specific symptoms, it is ideal to keep a symptom journal to help you and your physician discover the triggers and patterns of such symptoms.
Personality or Mood Changes: Adults with brain tumors sometimes experience personality changes that are frustrating and can definitely interrupt daily living activities. Laughing at things that are not humorous, sudden increased interest in sex, temper tantrums, paranoia, and social decline, are just a few of the possible personality changes that one may experience if they have a brain tumor. In contrast, personality changes can also mean an exaggeration of normal characteristics.
Seizures:Up to a third of people report having seizures prior to being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Seizures cause the body to shake and tremor in varying intensity. They can also cause one to stare for several minutes or have visual disturbance like flashing lights. Loss of consciousness can also occur. Though seizures are most likely caused by another condition like epilepsy or stroke, you must seek medical attention immediately if you believe you have had a seizure.
Cognitive Decline: Slower processing speed of the brain can be a symptom of a brain tumor. If you find it takes you longer to complete tasks than it usually does, report it to your doctor. This isn’t related to fatigue or lack of motivation. These are tasks that require thinking like simple math, writing sentences, setting up a chess board, or following a recipe. People with brain tumors may find it takes great effort to complete the most basic task. Memory loss and difficulty concentrating can be typical with some brain tumors, as well.
Vision and Hearing Problems: Some brain tumors can cause visual or hearing disturbances that are difficult to ignore. Problems with vision can include seeing flashing lights, blurring, and floaters. Hearing disturbances can include one sided hearing loss and ringing in the ears.
Physical Changes: An adult with a brain tumor may experience weakness on one side of the body. He may become suddenly “clumsy” losing balance or walking to walls or stumbling. An abnormal gait may also be present. Coordinated movements may become difficult.
Speech Changes: Speech changes in relation to brain tumors can can include a wide array of changes. Slurring of the words or slow speech can occur. A person with a brain tumor may say things that make very little sense, despite efforts to communicate with the correct words. Sentences may have words in the incorrect order or even include words that have no relevance. This lack of effective communication can be a frustrating symptom for people with brain tumors.