5 Common Symptoms in Those Suffering From Brain Tumors

brain tumor, Dr. David Newell

Each year nearly 24,000 adults in the United States are diagnosed with brain tumors. Not all brain tumors are cancerous, and these benign tumors are not aggressive and usually don’t spread.

However, they can press on other structures of the brain, and if they produce substances, such as hormones, they can cause problems and even be life-threatening. Learn the most common symptoms you may experience when you have a brain tumor.

What is a brain tumor?

First, let’s look at how tumors develop. Your body is constantly undergoing change. Old, damaged cells die and are replaced with new cells. Tumors occur when clumps of cells grow abnormally, and instead of dying, they continue to grow, while more cells add to the mass.

Some tumors are cancerous, while others are noncancerous. They may grow rapidly or remain stable. Primary tumors start in the brain, while secondary tumors spread from elsewhere in your body.

People diagnosed with brain tumors may experience a wide variety of symptoms. The exact symptoms depend on the type and size of the tumor, and where in your brain it is located. Let’s take a look at some of these symptoms:


A seizure is an abrupt surge of electrical activity within your brain. During a seizure, you may experience uncontrollable muscle spasms, abnormal sensations and confusion, or loss of consciousness.

Seizures are often the first sign of a brain tumor. They may be a presenting symptom or may occur later as the tumor progresses. Roughly one-third of patients experience one or more seizures prior to a brain tumor diagnosis. This is known as brain tumor-related epilepsy.

Seizures are more common with some types of tumors. For instance, certain slow-growing brain tumors cause seizures in up to 80% of patients.


If you experience a severe and persistent headache, it’s common to wonder whether your headache is something more serious, like a brain tumor. While headaches are a common symptom of brain tumors, the typical person who suffers from a headache doesn’t have a brain tumor.

Experiencing a new or unusual headache is a red flag. A headache that is accompanied by other symptoms such as unintentional weight loss is of concern. Having headaches along with blurry vision or balance problems may signal trouble.

Cognitive changes

People with brain tumors can experience subtle or dramatic cognitive changes. Brain tumors can affect many parts of the brain, impacting your memory, concentration, and problem-solving abilities.

Forgetfulness, confusion, becoming easily distracted, and changes in perception are common cognitive changes seen in people with brain tumors. Adults who have brain tumors may experience changes in mood or personality.

Sensory changes

Some brain tumors can cause disturbances in sight, smell or hearing. People with brain tumors may experience vision changes such as double vision, flashing lights and blurring. Brain tumors can cause ringing in the ears and hearing loss, as well as smelling things that are not present, such as smoke.  

Balance problems

Tumors that develop in the back part of the brain, known as the brain stem, can cause problems with balance. The brainstem plays a key role in motor functions, and tumors in this part of the brain can cause changes in gait, balance and coordination.

People with these types of tumors may find themselves bumping into things, leaning toward one side, or stumbling.

The symptoms of a brain tumor can seem like everyday ailments. If you’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumor, knowing common symptoms can help you make sense of what you’re experiencing.

While a brain tumor is a scary diagnosis, neurosurgeon Dr. David Newell is dedicated to compassionately guiding you through the treatment process. To learn more, call or click to schedule an appointment at our Bellevue, Washington, office.

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