Symptoms depend on where the tumor is, how big it is, and how fast it's growing. They may appear quickly or slowly get worse over time. They may include:


Headache is very common with a brain tumor. The headache happens because of increased pressure in the skull. Pressure is caused by:

  • Growth of the tumor itself
  • Swelling from tissue around the tumor
  • Blockage of fluid around the brain and spine

Headaches tend to worsen over time. They're not relieved with usual methods. They are often most painful when waking up in the morning. They may also happen with vision problems such as double vision.


For some people, having a seizure is the first sign of a brain tumor. A seizure can occur suddenly and sometimes without warning. There are people who feel a change or signal (called an aura) before the seizure happens.

A seizure may be:

  • Generalized or major motor—May cause violent shaking, which may include losing consciousness. There may be loss of urine or bowel control, or biting of the tongue. They start in one part of the brain, but spread throughout the brain.
  • Focal—These may cause one part of the body to shake without control. It may start in one place and move to a generalized seizure. A focal seizure may also happen without any shaking. They may or may not involve a change in consciousness.

Not all seizures have shaking with the body. Some seizures are quick changes of consciousness. This may cause a person to fade out for a brief period.

Other General Symptoms

Pressure building in the skull may cause other symptoms such as:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred, double, or loss of vision
  • Increased fatigue or sleepiness
  • Balance problems

Other Physical and Neurological Symptoms

Problems depend on where the tumor is. They will worsen as the tumor grows and presses into brain tissue. The most common are problems with:

  • Speaking
  • Memory
  • Understanding language
  • Understanding what is being asked of you
  • Sensation and processing of sensory input
  • Personality or behavior
  • Movements or gestures
  • Coordination and walking
  • Controlling the bladder or bowel
  • Muscle strength or sensation in one or more parts of the body

Astrocytoma and oligodentroglioma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated May 13, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2018.

General information about adult central nervous system tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated July 5, 2018. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Meningioma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated January 19, 2017. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Overview of intracranial tumors. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated June 2018. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Signs and symptoms of adult brain and spinal cord tumors. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated November 6, 2017. Accessed August 10, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 8/10/2018