8 Warning Signs of a Brain Tumor

A brain tumor is such a devastating diagnosis that it may seem to be a rare occurrence to those who are not confronting the health challenge themselves. It is actually the 10th most common cause of death for both women and men. Estimates from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) suggest that 9620 men and 7080 women – 16,700 people total – will die because of primary cancerous brain or central nervous system (CNS) tumors this year. Clearly a brain tumor is a serious health issue. However, many people do survive them. There will be about 10,350 women and 13,450 men diagnosed with brain and spinal cord tumors this year; each of those people will need expert treatment to facilitate recovery and sustain their quality of life.

No one wants to run to the doctor with every little ache or pain, though. How do you know if you should get professional guidance? Watch for these 8 typical warning signs:

  1. Seizures
  2. Headaches
  3. Clumsiness
  4. Slight vision impairment
  5. Numbness
  6. Stuttering or slurred speech
  7. Difficulty thinking and remembering
  8. Exhaustion or weakness

#1 – Seizures

The tumor will typically irritate the brain, causing uncontrolled firing of its neurons and, in turn, abnormal motion. A seizure could be isolated to a limb or part of your face, or it could be full-body.

#2 – Headaches

It is not easy to tell if a headache is caused by a tumor, but sometimes that is the case. Features of headaches that could be linked to tumors are that the headache occurs every day and does not seem to resolve – instead gradually worsening as time passes. The headache is typically there as soon as you get out of bed because your body is responding to the intracranial pressure that arises from an extended period lying down. It is important to go to a doctor if your headache does not respond to over-the-counter medicine or other typical headache treatments. Note that the degree of pain will not be an indicator of the size or growth speed of the tumor.

#3 – Clumsiness

Are you having trouble with your mobility (getting across the room), dexterity (trouble getting your key in the lock), or balance? These problems in your body could be connected to a brain tumor. You also might have difficulty with simple, seemingly non-physical tasks such as talking, managing your facial expressions, or even swallowing.

#4 – Slight vision impairment

Unfortunately, if you are struggling to see the world clearly, you may not know that you are experiencing a problem at all. Often, patients who have this symptom will repeatedly run into objects (with their bodies) or even get into vehicular collisions on the side that the eye is having trouble.

This difficulty with peripheral vision is technically called bitemporal hemianopsia, explains Med School Tutors medical codirector Christopher Carrubba, MD. “We often see this symptom with pituitary tumors that compress the optic chiasm, or part of the visual pathway,” he says.

#5 – Numbness

Just like clumsiness or seizures can be experienced throughout the body (as opposed to something that is contained to one body part such as vision), you may lose feeling either in your face or another region. Clumsiness and numbness often indicate that the tumor is on the brain stem, the place where the spinal cord and brain meet.

#6 – Stuttering or slurred speech

Are you having difficulty comprehending other people's speech or coming up with the names of objects, or are you stuttering? That could mean that you have a tumor in your temporal or frontal lobes – regions that control language processing and speech motor functions. Wernicke's area and Broca's area are two sites within the brain that can be involved; the former controls language comprehension, while the latter moves our muscles to allow the sound that is necessary for speech. Tumors in those areas can block their capabilities.

#7 – Difficulty thinking and remembering

Tumors can lead to risky and out-of-character behaviors that do not seem to fit with an individual’s personality. However, the sort of sea change in mental processing that has been popularized by Hollywood and elsewhere should not be considered a standard response to a brain tumor. It’s likelier that you will experience thought issues that are less grandiose, such as challenges with your memory or a sense of confusion.

#8 – Exhaustion or weakness

Management of muscle movement within the body is handled by the motor cortex – with the left motor cortex controlling the right side, and vice versa. When a tumor exists along that line of communication, you lose function because signals cannot get through properly. While you may not have pain in your arm or leg, you may have difficulty getting it to work correctly.

What should you do?

The above symptoms give you a sense that you might have a brain tumor. Suspecting a tumor is just the first step. It is critical to move forward both swiftly and practically.

Are you worried that you might have a brain tumor or another neurological condition? Offering both surgical and nonsurgical approaches, Acadiana Neurosurgery provides patient-centered care based on an in-depth evaluation and analysis of each patient's unique situation. See our reviews.

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