Think You Have a Brain Tumor? Here Are The Signs and Symptoms


Brain cancer happens when cells that should not be there grow in your brain. Tumors are made by cancer cells, and depending on the type of tumor, they can grow slowly or quickly.

This blog will provide an overview of brain cancer and the signs, symptoms, and treatment options associated with the disease.

What is a Brain Tumor?

All brain cancers are tumors, but not all brain tumors are cancerous. Noncancerous brain tumors are called benign brain tumors. Brain tumors are named based on their location in the brain or upper spine. Tumors are also given a grade where the grade of a tumor shows how quickly it is likely to grow. The grades range from 1 to 4, with 1 being the slowest and 4 being the fastest.

Most benign brain tumors grow slowly, have precise edges, and don’t spread. Even benign tumors can be harmful as they can hurt and squeeze parts of the brain, which can lead to severe problems. If a benign brain tumor grows in an important part of the brain, it can be fatal. A benign tumor rarely turns into a cancerous one. Meningioma, vestibular schwannoma, and pituitary adenoma are all examples of tumors that are benign.

Malignant brain tumors are cancerous. Most of the time, they grow quickly and take over healthy brain structures nearby. Brain cancer can be life-threatening because it changes the brain’s most important parts, and malignant tumors can start in or near the brain. Some examples are medulloblastoma, chondrosarcoma, and olfactory neuroblastoma.

Are There Different Types of Brain Tumors?

There are a variety of tumors that may affect the brain. Some of the most common primary types of brain tumors include:

  • Glioma – Gliomas are brain tumors that originate in the glial cells, and account for about 3 out of 10 cases of brain cancer
  • Astrocytoma – Astrocytomas are a type of glioma that include glioblastomas, the fast-growing type of brain tumor
  • Meningioma – Often benign and slow-growing, meningioma tumors grow in the tissue that surrounds your brain and spinal cord and are the most common type of brain tumor in adults
  • Ganglioglioma – Gangliogliomas are slow-growing tumors found in the neurons and glial cells that can normally be treated with surgery
  • Craniopharyngiomas Craniopharyngiomas are slow-growing tumors that form between the pituitary gland and the brain and often press on optic nerves, resulting in vision difficulties
  • Schwannomas Schwannomas are slow-growing tumors that form around the cranial nerves and are almost always benign
  • Medulloblastoma – Medulloblastomas are fast-growing tumors that form on the brain’s nerve cells and are more common in children

In adults, secondary brain tumors are far more common than primary brain tumors. Any cancer can spread to the brain, but common types include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma

What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of a Brain Tumor?

The signs and symptoms of a brain tumor vary greatly and depend on the brain tumor’s size, location, and rate of growth. General signs and symptoms caused by brain tumors may include:

  • New onset or change in the pattern of headaches
  • Headaches that gradually become more frequent and more severe
  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision, or loss of peripheral vision
  • Gradual loss of sensation or movement in an arm or a leg
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Speech difficulties
  • Feeling very tired
  • Confusion in everyday matters
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty or unable to follow simple commands
  • Personality or behavior changes
  • Seizures, especially in someone who doesn’t have a history of seizures
  • Hearing problems

Brain Tumor Treatment Options

Treatment for a brain tumor depends on the type, size, and location of the tumor, as well as your overall health and the preferences of the patient. Some of the most common forms of treatment for brain tumors include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted drug therapy. Get started with an MRI scan.

  • Surgery – Some brain tumors are small and easy to separate from the brain tissue around them. This makes it possible to remove them as a whole with surgery. Other brain tumors can’t be separated from the tissue around them, or they are near sensitive parts of the brain, which makes surgery risky. In these cases, your doctor will take out as much of the tumor as possible without creating further damage
  • Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy kills tumor cells by using high-energy beams, like X-rays or protons. Radiation therapy can come from a machine outside your body, known as external beam radiation, or, very rarely, radiation can be put inside your body near your brain tumor, called brachytherapy
  • Chemotherapy – Drugs are used in chemotherapy to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be taken by mouth as pills or injected into a vein. Most of the time, temozolomide is the chemotherapy drug used to treat brain tumors. Depending on the type of cancer, other chemo drugs may also be suggested
  • Targeted drug therapy – Targeted drug treatments are based on abnormalities cancer cells may have. By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug treatments can kill cancer cells

What is Rehab Like after Brain Tumor Treatment?

Because brain tumors can grow in parts of the brain that control motor skills, speech, vision, and thinking, rehabilitation may be a necessary part of recovery, however, not all treatments will require a rehabilitation period. Depending on what you need, your doctor may suggest that you:

  • Physical therapy can help you regain motor skills or muscle strength that you have lost
  • Occupational therapy can help you get back to your normal daily activities, including work, after a brain tumor or other illness
  • If you have trouble speaking, you can get help from speech pathologists who are experts in speech problems
  • Tutoring for school-aged kids to help them deal with changes in their memory and thinking after a brain tumor

Concerned about some of the symptoms you are experiencing? Here at CONA, we are ready to help you determine your next course of action. To request an appointment with one of our CONA specialists, click here or call (864) 582-6396.

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with A CONA Specialist!

If you are experiencing unusual head pain, we encourage you to make an appointment with a Carolina Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates (CONA) Board Certified and Fellowship Trained Neurological Specialist as soon as possible. We have offices located in Spartanburg, Duncan and Greenville, SC.

Remember, the road to recovery starts when you walk through our doors. 

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