Adult brain tumour symptoms

Updated June 13, 2017

Brain tumours are groups of rapidly growing cells in the brain that aggregate into masses. The symptoms of a brain tumour are dependent on the tumour's size and location within the brain. The symptoms are caused by damage and pressure to the various tissues of the brain. Symptoms of brain tumours should be recognized early so that proper diagnosis and treatment can be performed. According to Cancer Research UK, the most common symptoms are headaches and fits.


Headaches are the most common and usually the first symptom experienced by patients with a brain tumour, according to the Merck Manuals. Headaches induced by brain tumours usually come and go, but later become constant. The pain tends to worsen as the patient lies down. Headaches can wake people from sleep, are worse upon awakening, and become better throughout the day. These kind of headaches in patients who have never complained of headaches in the past may be due to brain tumors.

Visual disturbances

Brain tumours can cause blurred vision, a loss of peripheral vision, or double vision.These visual disturbances can be caused by the tumour pressing onto the optic nerve, or by the mass damaging the parts of the brain responsible for vision.

Nausea and vomiting

Patients with brain tumours can feel nauseous and may vomit, states the Merck Manuals. The gradually increasing pressure in the brain induced by the tumour causes these symptoms. This pressure causes an activation of the parts of the brain stem that control nausea and vomiting.

Loss of coordination and lethargy

Increasing intracranial pressure caused by the growth of a brain tumor can lead to loss of coordination and a feeling of drowsiness or lethargy. As the pressure in the brain increases, the brain stem is pushed against the bottom of the skull. This causes the brain stem to become damaged and start to shut down. The brain stem controls coordination and alertness. Therefore, damage to the brain stem can cause lethargy and lack of coordination.

Limb weakness and loss of sensation in the limbs

Depending on the location, brain tumours can cause a loss of sensation in the arms or legs, or weakness or paralysis of the limbs. This symptom is caused by the tumours propensity to damage the areas of the brain that control these functions. Successful treatment for the tumour may resolve these highly distressing symptoms.

Psychological changes

Patients with a brain tumour may experience various psychological changes, as reported by the Merck Manuals. Sudden episodes of depression, anxiety or bizarre behaviour have been linked to the development of a brain tumour. Older patients with a brain tumour may develop memory lapses or decreases in cognitive function that may be mistaken as dementia.

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About the Author

Joseph Pritchard graduated from Our Lady of Fatima Medical School with a medical degree. He has spent almost a decade studying humanity. Dr. Pritchard writes as a San Francisco biology expert for a prominent website and thoroughly enjoys sharing the knowledge he has accumulated.