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Brain Tumors

What is a brain tumor?

A brain tumor is a mass of abnormal cells in the brain. There are many types of brain tumors. They may start in the brain (primary tumors) or travel to the brain from another part of the body (metastatic tumors). Brain tumors may be slow-growing, not likely to spread, and not cancer (benign). Or they may be quick-growing, able to spread to other parts of the brain, and cancer (malignant). Both kinds of brain tumors can cause serious problems by pressing on and damaging normal brain tissue. The damage depends on the type of tumor, how big it is, and where it is in the brain.

Top view cross section of brain showing tumor.

What causes symptoms?

Along with its location, the way a tumor grows can affect the symptoms you have. A tumor may affect the brain in 1 or more ways. It may:

  • Destroy normal brain tissue

  • Compress normal brain tissue

  • Increase pressure in the brain (called intracranial pressure)

  • Excite brain cells and cause seizures

  • Cause bleeding in the brain

  • Block the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear fluid that bathes, supports, and cushions the brain and spinal cord

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of brain tumors are:

  • Headaches that may be worse in the morning

  • Trouble thinking, remembering, or talking

  • Changes in personality, mood, and behavior

  • Vision, speech, or hearing problems

  • Seizures or convulsions

  • Paralysis, numbness, or weakness in one part or on one side of the body

  • Loss of balance, lack of coordination, or problems walking

  • Nausea and vomiting that may be worse in the morning

  • Hormone problems (many types)

  • Drowsiness

There are many different types of brain tumors with many different symptoms, treatments, and outcomes. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your symptoms and if they could be a sign of a brain tumor.

Online Medical Reviewer: Kimberly Stump-Sutliff RN MSN AOCNS
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Luc Jasmin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2020
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