Skip to main content

13 Warning Signs of a Brain Tumor Not to Ignore

6 min read

By Jeff Hayward

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Gerald Morris

Brain tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), but in either case, the tumor itself can affect a patient in varying ways. “The signs and symptoms of a brain tumor vary greatly and depend on the brain tumor’s size, location, and rate of growth,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

However, there are some potentially debilitating symptoms associated with a brain tumor, and a doctor will have to assess the best treatment option whether it’s surgery, radiation, or another approach. If you’re experiencing any of these 13 related symptoms, it’s best to see a medical professional for assessment…

1. Headaches

If you’re not the type to usually have headaches, and you suddenly find yourself dealing with them regularly, it could be many things, including an early sign of a brain tumor, notes WebMD.

Headaches that are associated with brain tumors don’t respond to over-the-counter remedies the same way other headaches do. However, the site also says you shouldn’t panic if you’re having headaches, “Keep in mind that most headaches are unrelated to brain tumors,” adds the source.

2. Seizures

Brain tumors can also trigger seizures, which “might be the first clue that something unusual is happening in the brain,” according to the American Brain Tumor Association. It notes seizures are more common with particular types of brain tumors, such as slow-growing gliomas, meningiomas (affecting the membranes of the brain and spinal cord), and metastatic brain tumors (cancer that starts elsewhere and spreads to the brain).

Characteristics of tumor-related seizures include a sudden onset of convulsions, loss of body function, arrested breathing (for 30-seconds or so that could lead to a “dusky blue” skin color) and weakness or numbness afterwards. Overall, this whole episode is short (2- to 3-minutes).

3. Cognitive Decline

A host of problems with the brain’s ability to process information might be the result of a brain tumor. Cancer Treatment Centers of America notes brain tumors can make it difficult for a patient to remember things, concentrate on a task, or communicate clearly.

The source also notes that a variety of the symptoms, such as being confused and not being able to think clearly, may show up gradually. These could be early red flags to prompt your doctor to have a closer look at the possible root cause.

4. Trouble with Balance and Coordination explains there could be some telltale signs of a brain tumor that show up in physical ways, whether from the cancer itself or the treatments. As the brain and spinal cord are part of the central nervous system, brain cancer patients can experience a variety of unwanted side effects.

Aside from the cognitive decline already mentioned, brain tumor patients may find they have trouble with walking and balance, and they could experience vertigo, which is the sensation of the room spinning. Problems with coordination (e.g. something simple like tying your shoelaces) might also be impacted.

5. Personality Changes

Family members and caregivers could notice a change in your behavior if you’re dealing with a brain tumor. explains that personality changes in a patient can put an extra burden on those already dealing with the illness.

As the frontal lobe of the brain is the “command center” for personality, tumors in this area of the brain will have a more severe impact. However, other locations of tumors can cause hormonal imbalances and severe frustration for the patient, especially if their ability to speak has been impacted, it adds. “A brain tumor patient that has lost their speech might desperately want to tell a grandchild how much they love them, but not be able to get the words out,” adds the source.

6. Hearing Loss

While the ability to be heard can be affected by a brain tumor, so can the ability to hear, according to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. While the ear is obviously important for hearing, it’s the brain that ultimately processes sound. That means, in theory, that your ear and its inner structures could be fine, but the pathways and receptors in your brain might not.

One type of tumor that can impact hearing is called an acoustic neuroma, notes the foundation, which may affect one or both ears. Tests for this generally show hearing loss in high frequencies, as well as poor recognition of words. Tumors can affect a smaller area where auditory relay systems reside or by “mass effects,” such as creating pressure or even causing the brain to move depending on the size of the tumor.

7. Weakness in One Side also explains that you may experience weakness on one side of the body, affecting the arm and leg on the same side. On top of that, you may become confused about which side of your body is left or right, which are all linked to a tumor in the frontal or parietal lobe of the brain.

Another symptom of this type of brain tumor is an “altered perception” of touch or pressure. Other sources note this could affect your ability to feel pain or different temperatures.

8. Vision Changes

Cancer Treatment Centers of America note that a tumor located near the optic nerve could result in blurred or double vision, and some other types of tumors can actually result in abnormal eye movements.

The American Brain Tumor Association paints a slightly less rosy picture when it comes to the relation of brain tumors and vision. The source notes you may develop blind spots, loss of peripheral vision (seeing out of the corner of your eyes), or sudden blindness, which could indicate pressure on the brain from the tumor. If you’re experiencing sudden blindness, seek medical assistance immediately.

9. Speech Challenges

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America note that depending on the location of the brain tumor, it can affect areas that are normally responsible for clear communication.

That being said, speech itself may become difficult for the affected person, or they may experience “language difficulties,” adds the source. This typically means the person can’t find the right words to express something or can’t comprehend what someone is telling them.

10. Muscle Twitches talks about a meningioma, which is a tumor that forms on the membranes covering the brain and nearby spinal cord. It says the tumor pressing against these two essential areas can cause involuntary movements of muscles called convulsions, which are also sometimes referred to as motor seizures.

While this can present as full-blown seizures with loss of bodily function as we’ve detailed previously (known as tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures), it can also be in the form of single/multiple muscle twitches, jerks or spasms (known as myoclonic seizures).

11. Depression

According to Reader’s Digest, along with personality changes that could involve risky behavior, a person’s mood may drop due to the presence of brain cancer. Depression, anxiety, and anger all radiate from the frontal lobe, which can become compressed or irritated by the formation of a tumor.

In some cases, this may result in a misdiagnosis of a psychiatric problem, when in fact it’s a physical change in the brain causing the depression or other unusual mood or behavior.

12. Infertility

The same source says brain cancer can even impact the ability to conceive a child. This is because the brain controls hormones, including those that are essential for reproduction.

The pituitary gland in particular, although very small, is responsible for hormone production. “Tumors affecting the pituitary gland can secrete high amounts of hormones or prevent the normal gland from working,” explains the source. This may affect the ability to conceive or the ability to produce breast milk after giving birth.

13. Fatigue/Lethargy based in the UK discusses tumor-related fatigue, noting that it is “the most common side effect” of brain tumors and brain cancer. Those with non-cancerous brain tumors may also experience fatigue (defined as tiredness that’s not relieved by resting). You may also feel like your limbs are heavier, and it’s generally tougher to move around.

This tumor-related fatigue can disrupt your sleep patterns and vary in intensity day-to-day or even during the same day. Other sources note fatigue is also a side effect of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, so if the tumor itself isn’t causing you to feel endlessly tired, the treatment might be the culprit.

MD, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine

Gerald Morris, MD is a family medicine/internal medicine physician with over 20 years expertise in the medical arena. Dr. Morris has spent time as a clinician, clinical research coordinator/manager, medical writer, and instructor. He is a proponent of patient education as a tool in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic medical conditions.

Your Health


What Do Your Blood Test Results Mean? A Toxicologist Explains the Basics of How to Interpret Them
By Brad Reisfeld Your Health

What Do Your Blood Test Results Mean? A Toxicologist Explains the Basics of How to Interpret Them

Your blood serves numerous roles to maintain your health. To carry out these functions, blood contains a multitude of components, including red blood cells that transport oxygen, nutrients and hormones; white blood cells that remove waste products and support the immune system; plasma that regulates temperature; and platelets that help with clotting. Within the blood […]

Read More about What Do Your Blood Test Results Mean? A Toxicologist Explains the Basics of How to Interpret Them

5 min read

Dietary Supplements and Protein Powders Fall Under a ‘Wild West’ of Unregulated Products That Necessitate Caveats And Caution
By Emily Hemendinger and Katie Suleta Your Health

Dietary Supplements and Protein Powders Fall Under a ‘Wild West’ of Unregulated Products That Necessitate Caveats And Caution

Dietary supplements are a big business. The industry made almost US$39 billion in revenue in 2022, and with very little regulation and oversight, it stands to keep growing. The marketing of dietary supplements has been quite effective, with 77% of Americans reporting feeling that the supplement industry is trustworthy. The idea of taking your health […]

Read More about Dietary Supplements and Protein Powders Fall Under a ‘Wild West’ of Unregulated Products That Necessitate Caveats And Caution

5 min read

Strep A Explainer: Why Invasive Cases Are Increasing, How It Spreads and What Symptoms to Look For
By John McCormick and Juan Manuel Diaz Your Health

Strep A Explainer: Why Invasive Cases Are Increasing, How It Spreads and What Symptoms to Look For

A jump in the number of people with serious illness caused by group A Streptococcus — also referred to as Streptococcus pyogenes or Strep A — has made headlines recently. There has also been a higher than usual number of deaths from group A Streptococcus infections, including in children, leaving people with questions about why […]

Read More about Strep A Explainer: Why Invasive Cases Are Increasing, How It Spreads and What Symptoms to Look For

4 min read