Brain tumour is a dreaded disease. The term tumour, refers to any abnormal growth and accumulation of cells which impair the normal functions of brain. These tumours arise from the normal cells of the brain, which because of some reason overcome the normal checks and balances preventing abnormal growth of a particular cell type. Brain tumour includes the benign (non-cancerous) and the malignant (cancerous) types of tumours.
Benign tumours tend to grow slowly and cause slowly developing symptoms as the brain gets time to adapt to the slow growth. The symptoms produced by benign tumours is because of pressure on the adjacent normal structures.
Malignant or cancerous tumours are rapidly growing. Because of the rapid growth, the symptoms evolve and progress in no time. The symptoms are because of tumour cells, swelling or edema in brain, and because of increased pressure inside the brain.
Brain tumours not just affect the adults, but can also affect children. In fact, brain cancers are a leading cause of mortality among children in developed countries. Therefore, it is imperative to know about the symptoms and signs of brain tumours for early identification and treatment. Here is a look at some of the common symptoms associated with brain tumours.
Headache is the most common symptom associated with brain tumours. Almost every individual has headaches, so it is important to differentiate ordinary headaches from those associated with tumours. The following headaches need clinical evaluation and also warrant a radiological evaluation.
- Gradually worsening headaches
- Morning headaches relieved with vomiting
- Worsening of headaches with coughing, sneezing or bending forwards
- New onset headaches after 40 years of age
- Change in frequency, intensity of duration of old headaches
Nausea or Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are also frequent in brain tumours. Multiple vomiting, or vomiting not associated with nausea is especially a common symptom in paediatric brain tumours. This may be the first and only symptom in this age group.
Balance and walking problems
This again is a very common symptom in children with brain tumours. The balance problem may lead to frequent falls, and inability to run or walk fast. The patients may walk like a ‘drunkard’, swaying side to side.
The vision problems from brain tumours can be from direct pressure on the vision or eye movement apparatus of brain, or indirectly from increased pressure inside the brain. Direct pressure on nerves associated with vision (Optic nerves, or cranial nerve II) can lead to blindness in one half of field, life right or left visual loss. This is seen in tumours from Pituitary gland or those in occipital lobes which are concerned with vision.
Double vision may result from pressure on nerves that control movement of eyeballs (Cranial nerves III, IV, and VI).
Increased pressure inside the brain can lead to double vision, blurring of vision and even blindness in neglected cases.
Memory, speech and cognitive changes
Memory, speech and cognitive functions of brain are complex functions and involve larger areas of the brain and multiple connections between different parts of brain. Therefore, these functions are at a high risk of getting affected by brain tumours.
Forgetfulness, inability to find appropriate words, speaking in a non-coherent manner, inability to use common objects in an appropriate fashion, making way around own house, and self dressing and grooming are some of the common symptoms associated with brain tumours.
Weakness in arms or legs
Brain tumours that affect the areas of brain which control movement can lead to weakness in arms or legs. Weakness on one side of body is called hemiparesis. Weakness in half of body can also involve the face and manifest as skewing of face when smiling or talking.
Seizures are another common feature of brain tumours. Any new onset seizure warrants a radiological assessment for brain tumours. A seizure is the most frightening symptom. It can cause additional injuries to the patient.
Rapid personality changes
Brain tumours can also cause rapid personality changes, especially with tumours in the frontal lobes of brain. Social withdrawal, loss of inhibition, indifference or mood changes like depression are quite common in brain tumours.
These symptoms mentioned above provide a brief overview of the symptoms associated with brain tumours. These may not be exclusively associated with tumours, but definitely warrant a visit to a physician for a detailed neurologic examination and perhaps a radiological assessment with an MRI.
This article is meant for only general public awareness and education. The text can not substitute expert medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you experience these symptoms.