The symptoms of a benign (non-cancerous) brain tumour depend on its size and where it is in the brain.
Some slow-growing tumours may not cause any symptoms at first. When symptoms occur, it's because the tumour is putting pressure on the brain and preventing a specific area of the brain from working properly.
Increased pressure on the brain
Common symptoms of increased pressure within the skull include:
- new, persistent headaches – which are sometimes worse in the morning or when bending over or coughing
- feeling sick all the time
- vision problems – such as blurred vision, double vision, loss of part of the visual field (hemianopia), and temporary vision loss
- epileptic fits (seizures) – which may affect the whole body, or you may just have a twitch in one area
Location of the tumour
Different areas of the brain control different functions, so the symptoms of a brain tumour will depend on where it's located.
For example, a tumour affecting the:
- frontal lobe – may cause changes in personality, weakness in one side of the body, and loss of smell
- temporal lobe – may cause memory loss (amnesia) language problems (aphasia), and seizures
- parietal lobe – may cause aphasia, numbness or weakness in one side of the body, and co-ordination problems (dyspraxia), such as difficulty dressing
- occipital lobe – may cause loss of vision on one side of the visual field (hemianopia)
- cerebellum – may cause balance problems (ataxia), flickering of the eyes (nystagmus), and vomiting
- brain stem – may cause unsteadiness and difficulty walking, facial weakness, double vision, and difficulty speaking (dysarthria) and swallowing (dysphagia)
When to see a GP
It's important to see a GP if you have any symptoms.
While it's unlikely that you have a tumour, these type of symptoms need to be evaluated by a doctor so the cause can be identified.
If the GP is unable to find a more likely cause of your symptoms, they may refer you to a brain and nerve specialist called a neurologist for further assessment and tests, such as a brain scan.