Early Symptoms of a Brain Tumor

By Sharon L. Cohen ; Updated July 27, 2017

A brain tumor occurs when some cells in this complex organ duplicate, grow out of control and form an abnormal mass of tissue. As it grows larger, the tumor takes increasingly more room in the skull and impairs normal brain functioning. The tumor may increase pressure by moving the brain, pushing against the skull, or harming nerves and tissue. Benign brain tumors grow slowly and can be removed or destroyed, depending on location. Malignant or cancerous tumors grow very rapidly.


The location of a brain tumor will influence both the early and later symptoms that occur, since various parts of the brain control different functions. Brain tumors normally remain inside the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord. They do not usually spread to other parts of the body.

Earliest Symptoms

The earliest symptoms of brain tumors may be very subtle or strong, depending on size, form and location of the tumor. There are a whole range of symptoms that may occur. These include morning headaches, speech or concentration problems, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, mood swings, memory loss, depression, eating disorders or anxiety.

Later Symptoms

Although certain early symptoms of brain tumors are barely noticeable, with time all the side effects will worsen. There is only so much room inside the skull. As the tumor gets larger, it will further the amount of pressure on the brain. Tumors are classified on how quickly they grow, from the least to most aggressive.

Other Causes

It is often the case that the symptoms of early brain tumors may appear to be caused by other health conditions. Headaches most frequently occur with these tumors, but it is normally thought that they are instead being caused by migraines or sinus problems. It is very common that a doctor will believe that a person with a tumor has migraines or emotional problems, such as anxiety or anorexia. Another complication is that each person's tumor will act differently due to individual molecular characteristics.


Brain tumors in children cause headaches, morning vomiting, dizziness, double vision or vision problems, extreme fatigue, irritability and changes in behavior. Symptoms are usually very subtle in children and go unnoticed. Any complaints should be acknowledged.

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