Persistent headaches and nausea don’t sound like a health crisis, but what if these pointed to a serious underlying problem – a brain tumor. Although that terrible headache or intermittent vision loss isn't necessarily because of a brain tumor, it might be a good idea to get it checked out by a doctor if you’ve been continually troubled by signs such as these.
A brain tumor may sound like a scary, even devastating possibility. Basically a growth of abnormal cells in your brain, a brain tumor can be benign (without cancer cells) or malignant (with cancer cells). Although we don’t know why exactly a tumor develops, certain factors may mean that you have a greater chance of getting them. For instance, most brain tumors develop in people over the age of 50; and if you have a family history of brain tumors or your brain has been exposed to radiation, say, during radiotherapy, you might be at higher risk.
Genetic conditions like neurofibromatosis, Turcot syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, Li-Fraumeni cancer syndrome, and Gorlin syndrome are associated with brain tumors that tend to develop in early adulthood or childhood. Malignant brain tumors usually seem to develop when cancer from some other part of the body spreads to the brain. And, sometimes, benign brain tumors can also turn malignant.1
Catching a tumor early can mean a better shot at a positive outcome, so here are some signs you could watch out for.
Signs Of A Brain Tumor
The symptoms caused by brain tumors are either due to the pressure they put on the brain or because they affect the functioning of the part of the brain in which they are located.
1. Symptoms Caused By Increased Pressure
An increase in pressure in the skull can cause the following symptoms:
- Really bad headaches that seem to be worse in the mornings or when you do something that increases the pressure in your head, say coughing or bending.
- Constant vomiting or feeling like you have to throw up.
- Problems with your vision like blurred sight; vision loss that comes and goes; or seeing floating shapes (like small dots or thin strands) in front of your eyes.
- Seizures are a common symptom of brain tumors. They may affect the whole body or may manifest as a twitch in just one part, like an arm or a leg.
- As the tumor grows, you may find that you’re sleeping more than usual or falling asleep during the day.
2. Symptoms Caused By The Location Of The Tumor
Different areas of the brain control different functions, so the signs of a brain tumor will depend on where it is.2 3
- A tumor in the frontal lobe may mean personality changes; for instance, you may become aggressive, irritable, or less inhibited than usual. It can also mean the loss of ability to smell things and weakness in either the left or right side of the body.
- A tumor in the temporal lobe may cause problems with memory and language (you might have trouble using and understanding language, a condition called aphasia). You might also get seizures and, sometimes, the seizures may trigger strange smells or a sense of déjà vu.
- A tumor in the parietal lobe may cause loss of feeling or weakness in either the left or right side of the body. It could also cause aphasia.
- A tumor in the occipital lobe may mean loss of vision in one eye.
- A tumor in the cerebellum may cause vomiting, lack of coordination, rapid movement of the eyes (flickering), and a stiff neck.
- A tumor in the brain stem may mean loss of coordination and trouble walking. It can also cause double vision, facial weakness (a drooping eyelid or mouth on one side), and difficulty speaking and swallowing.
- A tumor in the meninges, that is, the membrane covering the brain, may cause seizures, headaches, and partial paralysis.4
- A tumor in the pituitary gland can cause irregular periods, development of breasts in men and excessive body hair. It may also lead to the enlargement of your hands and feet, obesity, and changes in your blood pressure.5
Do keep in mind that many of the symptoms mentioned here can also be caused by various other conditions. So, there’s no reason to panic. However, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a doctor if you have persistent symptoms that could indicate a brain tumor, just to be sure. Your doctor might do a neurologic exam and tests like a CT scan, an MRI, or a biopsy. Treatment for brain tumors can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, targeted therapy (where substances that target cancer cells and leave normal cells unharmed are used for treatment), or a combination of these.6
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Causes of a malignant brain tumour, National Health Service.|
|2.||↑||Benign brain tumour – Symptoms, National Health Service.|
|3.||↑||Symptoms of a malignant brain tumour, National Health Service.|
|4.||↑||Meningioma, Department of Health and Human Services.|
|5.||↑||Brain tumor – primary – adults, National Institutes of Health.|
|6.||↑||Brain Tumors, National Institutes of Health.|