Brain Cancer Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 19, 2022
2 min read

Not all brain tumors cause symptoms. Your doctor may not even find some (like tumors of the pituitary gland) unless they do an imaging test like CT scan or MRI for another reason.

There are many symptoms of brain cancer. But some of them are also caused by other illnesses. The only way to know for sure what is causing your symptoms is to get tested.

Symptoms can result from:

  • A tumor pressing on or encroaching on other parts of your brain and keeping them from working like they should.
  • Swelling in your brain caused by the tumor or surrounding inflammation.

Primary and metastatic brain cancers have similar symptoms. These are the most common:

Less specific symptoms include:

  • Changes in concentration, memory, attention, or alertness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Vision problems
  • Trouble with speech
  • Gradual changes in intellectual capacity or emotional response

Sometimes the symptoms happen so slowly that you and your family miss them. Less often, they show up rapidly and it seems like you’re having a stroke.

Get emergency medical help right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained, persistent vomiting
  • Double vision or unexplained blurring of vision, especially on only one side
  • Lethargy or increased sleepiness
  • New seizures
  • New pattern or type of headaches

Headaches are thought to be a common symptom of brain cancer, but you may not get them until you’ve had the disease for a while. If you notice any significant change in your headache pattern, your doctor may suggest that you go to the hospital.

If you have a brain tumor, any new symptoms or relatively sudden or rapid worsening of symptoms warrants a trip to the nearest hospital emergency department. Be on the lookout for the following new symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Changes in mental status, such as excessive sleepiness, memory problems, or inability to concentrate
  • Visual changes or other sensory problems
  • Trouble with speech or in expressing yourself
  • Changes in behavior or personality
  • Clumsiness or trouble walking
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting (especially in middle-aged or older people)
  • Sudden fever, especially after chemotherapy