What Are the Most Common Head Tumor Symptoms?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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The most common head tumor symptoms include headaches, seizures and mental changes. Symptoms are generally related to the physiological changes occurring inside the skull because of the tumor and increased intracranial pressure. Tumors growing in certain regions of the brain may also produce specific symptoms.

Headaches are the most common head tumor symptoms. The pain may awaken the individual during the night but is typically most intense first thing in the morning. The discomfort may gradually decrease as the day goes on. Along with a headache, some may experience nausea and vomiting, which may lessen the severity of the headache.

Physical activity and certain positions may increase pain intensity. Exercising, bending over, and kneeling increase the amount of blood in the skull. Bending over and kneeling also centralize fluids and pressure in the skull. As the tumor consumes space required by healthy brain tissue, internal pressure increases, and inflammation of nerve cells produces a headache.

Seizures afflict up to one third of patients diagnosed with a brain tumor. As the the tumor impedes the healthy neural tissue, electrical conduction between the cells goes awry. Focal seizures often produce muscle jerking, twitching, or spasms. Numbness, tingling, and incoherent speech are also common head tumor symptoms associated with seizures. Abnormal smells and tastes and complete loss consciousness may also accompany them.


Mental or personality changes are among common head tumor symptoms. Individuals may experience memory loss, difficulty concentrating, or complete confusion. Patients with brain tumors may also exhibit changes in temperament that include depression, irrational anger, and reckless behavior.

Physicians will refer to the changes occurring within the brain as "secondary" to the tumor. They occur as a result of the tumor's effect on the brain. Intracranial pressure typically increases because of blocked fluid circulation, brain swelling, and inflammation. The compression and movement of tissue damages blood vessels, brain cells, and neurons. Some slow growing tumors, such as posterior fossa tumors and growths in children and older adults may produce swelling in the optic nerve, which may be visible during an eye exam.

Tumors growing in specific areas of the brain may also cause specific head tumor symptoms. Those growing in the front of the brain may cause visual changes, speech disturbances, and the seizures and physical paralysis like those caused by a stroke. Brainstem tumors may produce cardiac and respiratory problems as well as endocrine disorders. Patients with growths in the back of the brain may experience headaches with nausea and vomiting and difficulties with physical coordination.


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