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Early Warning Signs of a Brain Tumor

Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, MD · Neurology · Centre Médicale Internationale

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Dec 11, 2020

Early Warning Signs of a Brain Tumor

The brain is responsible for controlling many of the bodily functions that keep us healthy and thriving. However, brain tumors can get in the way of the proper function of the brain and can have serious consequences on a person’s health. Learn more about the condition and the early warning signs of a brain tumor. 

What Are Brain Tumors?

A common belief is that tumors and cancers are interchangeable terms used to refer to the same thing. However, tumors can either be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). The term tumor simply refers to a mass or growth. Brain tumors are growths of abnormal cells located in the brain. 

Brain tumors are of several different types, namely:

  • Acoustic Neuroma
  • Chordoma
  • Astrocytoma
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Schwannoma
  • Pituitary Tumors
  • Metastatic Brain Tumors
  • Gliomas are the most common type of malignant primary brain tumors. They include astrocytomas (most common glioma), medulloblastoma, and glioblastoma multiforme.

    Brain and Spine Disorders: Everything You Need to Know

    Early warning signs of a brain tumor

    Symptoms of brain tumors can depend on several factors such as how fast the tumor is growing, where it is located, and the tumor’s size. Brain tumors affect the normal functions of the brain and cause symptoms as they grow in size because they start to press on the nearby nerves and tissues. 

    The following are the early warning signs of brain tumors that are the most common:


    Seizures occur when there is a disruption in the normal patterns of electrical surges in the brain. A brain tumor might irritate the neurons in the brain, which are responsible for producing the electrical surges. 


    A growing tumor can increase intracranial pressure. Aside from this, a brain tumor can also lead to fluctuations in hormones. Both of these can cause nausea in a person with a brain tumor.

    Vision Changes

    Depending on the location of the tumor, a person may experience double or blurry vision, and even partial or complete vision loss

    All people with brain tumors might not experience the same symptoms. Symptoms of brain tumors can vary greatly, depending on which part of the brain the tumors are located in.

    What You Need to Know About Benign vs Malignant Tumors

    Specific symptoms of brain tumors

    The following are specific symptoms depending on the location of the brain tumor

    Occipital Lobe

    The occipital lobe is a part of the brain, which is responsible for eyesight. If a person has a brain tumor here, they typically experience problems with their vision, specifically a partial or total loss of their eyesight.


    The cerebellum is often referred to as the “little brain” as it is responsible for how a person moves and how well they’re able to maintain their balance. If you have a brain tumor on this part of your brain, you’re likely to experience the following symptoms:

    • Dizziness
    • Severe pain and stiffness in the neck
    • Vomiting
    • Having trouble with coordinating movements
    • Not being able to control eye movements properly

    Pituitary gland

    The pituitary gland is a small gland located in the base of the brain, which are responsible for producing hormones that are vital for a person’s growth, and thirst and temperature regulation, among other functions. Brain tumors that form on the pituitary gland cause the following symptoms:

    • For women, a brain tumor in this part of the brain may cause irregularities in the menstruation cycle
    • For men, enlargement of breasts or milk discharge from nipples
    • Changes in mood
    • Sudden weight gain or weight loss
    • Hands or feet that appear swollen
    • Fatigue or a lack of energy
    • High blood pressure
    • Changes in vision (most often and maybe the earliest observed symptom)

    Brain stem

    The brain stem is what connects the brain to the spinal cord, and it is responsible for many important bodily functions such as breathing and regulating the heart’s pace. Brain tumors forming on the brain stem can cause the following symptoms:

    • Reduced ability to control movements
    • The eyelid or mouth appears to droop to one side
    • Vision problems, especially doubling of vision
    • Suddenly having difficulty speaking or swallowing
    • Hearing problems
    • Balance problems

    Frontal lobe

    Out of all the four lobes in the brain, the frontal lobes are the biggest. They are important in the formation of one’s personality and the way a person decides how they will behave. It is also responsible for controlling voluntary movements. If a brain tumor forms on the frontal lobe, it may cause the following symptoms:

    • Experiencing sudden changes in personality, which can result in losing one’s ability to feel things
    • Feeling aggressive or irritated for no reason
    • Having difficulty walking
    • Feeling weak on only one side of the body
    • Experiencing issues with smelling or seeing

    It’s important to note that not everyone can easily get brain tumors. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have a brain tumor. Headaches aren’t a common early sign of brain tumors either.

    Complications of Brain Tumors

    Brain tumors must be treated as soon as they are detected because they can have serious consequences on a person’s health. This is because as the tumor grows, it presses on more and more brain tissue. Some complications of brain tumors include:

    • Problems with the senses such as hearing, smelling, or seeing
    • Slowing or speeding up of breathing or pulse rates
    • Feeling numbness, which can lead to difficulty in perceiving pressure or temperatures

    Complications may also arise in terms of the treatment of brain tumors. Considering that the brain is a fragile part of the body, specific treatments may put a patient at risk of some complications.

    Brain Tumor Treatment

    Treatment options for brain tumors, including their possible complications, are the following:

    1. Surgical removal of the brain tumor may put you at risk of infections and bleeding. If the tumor is near the eyes, surgery might cause vision loss.
    2. Radiation therapy can kill tumor cells but can also cause some side effects like fatigue, memory loss, and hair loss.
    3. Chemotherapy is also a viable option for some types of brain tumors. However, common side effects include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, as is seen in chemotherapy for other tumors in the body.

    Key Takeaways

    Brain tumors are tumors that form in the brain. Symptoms of brain tumors can vary depending on their location. However, symptoms that are common among all types of brain tumors are usually seizures, nausea, and changes in vision. These are also early warning signs of a brain tumor. It’s important to consult a doctor right away if you suspect you have a brain tumor as this can lead to serious consequences on your health.

    Learn more about Brain and Spinal Disorders here. 


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

    Medically reviewed by

    Nicole Aliling, MD

    Neurology · Centre Médicale Internationale

    Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Dec 11, 2020

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