Hartford Hospital

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There are many possible symptoms from brain tumors, including:

  • Headaches
  • Cognitive and behavioral changes
  • Other physical and neurological symptoms

Headache is a common symptom of brain tumor. It is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Often, these headaches are more painful when first awakening in the morning. They may even wake patients during sleep. The headaches may be associated with visual changes, particularly double vision and sudden loss of vision. These headaches can be worsened with Valsalva (a method that involves holding your breath and straining).

The types of cognitive and behavioral changes that occur depend on the area of the brain being affected by tumor and swelling. As a tumor grows, changes can occur in:

  • Vision
  • Memory
  • Comprehension and/or expression of language
  • Sensation and processing of sensory input
  • Personality—including both increased lack of emotion or impulsiveness
  • Ability to do learned movements or gestures
  • Ability to process information

The location of the tumor and the swelling around the tumor are responsible for the types of symptoms that patients have. Changes in normal function may include:

  • Difficulty with coordination and walking
  • Difficulty controlling bowels and bladder
  • Weakness or loss of sensation in parts of the body
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Generalized or major motor seizures —These can cause you to pass out and shake violently. You may lose control of your urine or bowels and bite your tongue. These seizures begin in one part of the brain, but spread throughout the brain.
  • Focal seizures—These type of seizures cause one part of your body to shake uncontrollably. These seizures may start in one area and progress to generalized seizures. Focal seizures may also occur without any shaking. They may or may not involve a change in consciousness.

Without any shaking, part of your body may just stop working. This is similar to the symptoms individuals may have during a stroke, but it may be caused by the brain tumor or swelling around the brain tumor.

Some seizures are quick changes of consciousness and do not involve any shaking.


Brain tumor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated May 28, 2013. Accessed June 4, 2013.

Brain tumor. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/brain. Accessed June 4, 2013.

Seizures. American Brain Tumor Association website. Available at: http://www.abta.org/understanding-brain-tumors/symptoms/seizures.html. Accessed June 5, 2013.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD; Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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