According to the American Brain Tumor Association, nearly 80,000 new cases of primary brain tumors – tumors that originate in the brain – are expected to be diagnosed this year.
Brain tumors do not discriminate. They come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their symptoms. The key to understanding a tumor’s symptoms is largely dependent on its location in the brain. For example, if a tumor is positioned in the part of your brain responsible for controlling your arms or your vision, your symptoms may include weakness in the limbs and blurry vision. However, when you consider that the brain is responsible for controlling and interpreting information from every part of your body it is easy to see why the list of symptoms that can be associated with a brain tumor is extremely varied.
There are still some signs and symptoms that are more common than others. Here are six common symptoms to look for:
- Seizures– The onset of new seizures or convulsions can be caused by a tumor forming in the brain.
- Sensory and motor loss– If you feel yourself becoming increasingly and unusually clumsy, like missing steps and struggling with balance that could be a sign of trouble. Brain tumors can affect areas of the brain responsible for motor functions, such as balance, coordination and movement. The gradual loss of sensation or movement in an arm of leg, or difficulty with balance can occur. Weakness of facial muscles or difficulty controlling facial expressions, problems speaking or swallowing may also result. Numbness and loss of feeling in a part of the body or face is also something to keep an eye on. If a tumor forms where your brain connects with your spinal cord which is known as the brain stem, you may experience loss of feeling or clumsiness.
- Hearing and vision loss- A tumor that is located near the optical nerve could cause blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision. Depending on the size and location of a tumor, abnormal eye movements and other vision changes like seeing floating spots or shapes knows as an “aura” may result.
- Behavioral or personality changes- A more subtle sign of a brain tumor can be a shift in a person’s behavior or personality. Sometimes a tumor on the front part of the brain can lead to gradual changes in behavior, personality and thinking.
- Changes in thinking and memory- A brain tumor can impact cognitive abilities and cause problems with memory, poor concentration, confusion over everyday matters, difficulty thinking clearly and processing information, and even language and speech difficulties.
- Headaches- A headache could be caused my any multitude of issues, including stress, hunger and lack of sleep. However, if you develop new onset or a change in the frequency and intensity of your headaches, this could be an indicator of a brain tumor. Headaches associated with a brain tumor will often times also be accompanied by “nausea and vomiting which can be due to increased pressure on the skull,” said David Chu, MD, a Medical Oncologist and Co-Director of Mather Hospital’s Brain & Spine Tumor Program.
“Getting a diagnosis of a brain tumor can be very scary for any person. There are numerous types of tumors including tumors that arise within the brain and tumors that metastasize to, or spread from elsewhere in the body. They can be benign or malignant,” said Sumeer Sathi, MD, a Neurosurgeon and Co-Director of Mather Hospital’s Brain & Spine Tumor Program. “In dealing with brain tumors, early diagnosis may offer the best prognosis. Therefore, if you have any of these common symptoms, contact your doctor for further diagnosis,” Sathi said.