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Brain Tumor Headaches: When Should You Be Worried?

Brain Tumor Headaches: When Should You Be Worried?

It’s normal for people to experience headaches, especially if they’re tired or stressed out. But one type of headache that more people need to be more aware of is a brain tumor headache. What exactly makes it different from regular headaches, and how do you know if you’re suffering from one?

Brain Tumor Headaches: What Are They?

As the name suggests, brain tumor headaches are headaches caused by a brain tumor. It is estimated that about 50% of patients who are diagnosed with a brain tumor have experienced headaches as a symptom.

This type of headache occurs as a result of an increase in intracranial pressure, or pressure in between the skull and brain tissue, caused by a tumor.

It’s also possible that the tumor itself is stretching the dura, or the covering of the brain. The dura has a bunch of nerve endings, so it is more receptive to pain. In contrast, the brain itself does not have any pain receptors, so it doesn’t feel anything.

A brain tumor can also apply pressure on the nerves as it grows larger, causing pain and a headache. People usually describe it as a constant feeling of heaviness or squeezing in your head, and gets worse at night or in the morning. However, it’s possible for it to be a sharp, stabbing pain as well.

Over time, the pain can also worsen. This happens if the tumor grows bigger, which causes the intracranial pressure to go up even more.

Determining Headache Causes Based on the Location of Pain

When Should You Worry?

It is important to know that while headaches are a common symptom of brain tumors, they are usually not the only symptom. People diagnosed with brain tumors might experience other symptoms such as:

  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty sleeping

It’s highly uncommon for a brain tumor to only have headaches as the symptom.

However, there are certain characteristics that brain tumor headaches have, which are the following:

  • It usually gets worse in the morning, right after waking up, or late at night
  • Coughing, straining, or bending over can make the pain worse
  • Your headache gets worse over time, instead of getting better
  • It mostly feels like a dull or throbbing pain in your head

Take note that the symptoms above can also apply to a migraine or other types of headaches. Just because you’re experiencing these symptoms does not automatically mean you have a brain tumor.

However, if your headaches are getting worse, or if they are interfering with your day-to-day life, there’s nothing wrong with seeking medical attention.

How Long Does a Brain Tumor Take to Grow?

What Can You Do About it?

For the most part, headaches usually tend to resolve on their own. This means that over time, it’s possible that they just go away.

However, if you’re worried that you might be having brain tumor headaches, then the best thing to do would be to talk to your doctor.

Your doctor will ask you about your health, as well as if you have any preexisting health conditions. They will also be checking your medical history to see if an illness you might have had in the past might be responsible for your headaches.

If needed, they might ask you to undergo various tests such as a blood test, lumbar puncture, or imaging tests such as an MRI or X-ray. This should give your doctor a better idea about what might be causing your headaches.

Key Takeaways

Headaches are a pretty common occurrence, and everyone experiences a headache at some point in their life. And despite headaches being a possible sign of brain tumors, they are usually nothing to be too worried about.

The important thing to remember is to consult your doctor about it if your headaches are persistent. They can best assess, diagnose, and prescribe treatment for your condition or the underlying condition of your headache.

And remember, headaches are not the only sign of a brain tumor. There’s no reason to panic, especially if you’re not experiencing any other symptoms.

Learn more about Brain Tumors here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Headache: Could It Be a Brain Tumor? | Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/headache/headache-could-it-be-a-brain-tumor, Accessed January 19, 2021

What Do Brain Tumor Headaches Feel Like? | Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, https://www.roswellpark.org/cancertalk/202005/what-do-brain-tumor-headaches-feel, Accessed January 19, 2021

Brain Tumour Symptoms: Headaches, https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/brain-tumour-signs-symptoms/adult-brain-tumour-symptoms/headaches/, Accessed January 19, 2021

Headaches | Cancer.Net, https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/headaches, Accessed January 19, 2021

When Is a Headache a Symptom of a Brain Tumor? | Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, https://www.mskcc.org/news/when-headache-symptom-brain-tumor, Accessed January 19, 2021

Signs & Symptoms – American Brain Tumor Association, https://www.abta.org/about-brain-tumors/brain-tumor-diagnosis/brain-tumor-signs-symptoms/, Accessed January 19, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated May 12
Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, M.D.