Brain Tumor Symptoms – A Headache Might Be A Sign of Brain Tumor

January 21, 2020 by Dr Arun Saroha0
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A Headache might be a sign of brain tumor

Most brain tumor patients experience a headache. Headache can be caused by various triggers and a headache might be a sign of a brain tumor.

What causes headaches due to a brain tumor?

The type and intensity of the pain depend on the location and growth of the tumor. When the brain tumor compresses the vital functioning organs in the skull like the veins, nerve fibers, large arteries, and the skull wall, a pattern of headaches is triggered.

When a tumor grows in the brain, there could be brain swelling. This causes intracranial pressure (ICP). ICP is the pressure exerted on the brain tissues and cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain.

In the case of a brain tumor, the headache comes along with a sequence of other symptoms like vomiting. Seizures or body convulsions are other symptoms of brain tumor post which the person experiences a dull headache and weakness.

How is it different from a Migraine headache?

Most headaches cannot be associated with a brain tumor. But out of all the patients diagnosed with a brain tumor, 50% have experienced severe or minor headaches. There are striking similarities between the headaches in the case of migraine and those in brain tumors. Migraines can also cause nausea for some people. But the migraine pains do not occur with seizures or loss of control. Patients should also note other changes in the body like numbness in limbs, dizziness, vomiting, loss of sensory control, etc. The ultimate solution here to seek a neurologist and get checked. The specialist will be able to clearly distinguish and figure out the nature and cause of headache. Migraines are common and need not be worried about. But brain tumor is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment.

Brain tumor headache characteristics:

The generic nature of brain tumor headache could be associated with the below features.

  • Persistent dull headache
  • Sometime it could be a throbbing unbearable headache
  • Pain that steadily begins on waking up and continues for a few hours
  • Headache that worsens on coughing, sneezing, movement of head and changes in body position
  • This pain might not usually respond to the headache medication or remedies

Headaches in brain tumor do not occur separately but are in sync with other neurological symptoms like:

  • Muscle flexing in face or limbs, jerking, full-body convulsions. This could be followed by temporary unconsciousness and abrupt breathing.
  • Changes in sensory organs like altered vision or hearing
  • Weakness and numbness in arms and legs
  • Slurred speech, uncontrolled facial expression
  • Vomiting
  • ​​Memory loss
  • Abrupt changes in mood, aggression, and loss of balance.

Gradually, as the tumor grows, the headaches will seem to occur more frequently and with increased intensity. Lying down or resting worsens this type of ache.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. The specialist will ask you various questions to understand the nature of ailment and family history. The doctor would also want to know what medications you take to control the headaches, do they work, remedies that you use to soothe the headache, etc. It is best to keep a journal and note that occurrences of such aches and if there are other symptoms. This will help the doctor understand the exact pattern and frequency. The further course of tests and treatment can then be derived.


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About Dr. Arun Saroha


Dr.Arun Saroha is working as Neurosurgeon with a special interest in spine surgery for the last 15 years. He specializes in Neuro-oncology, Paediatric Neurosurgery, Neurotrauma, Stroke & Cerebrovascular surgery including Transnasal surgeries. He has also been performing instrumented/ Non-instrumentation spine surgeries, including minimally invasive spine surgeries. He has performed more than 6,000 Neurosurgeries (Spine and Brain) successfully till date with patients from all over the world.

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