Brain Tumor Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of brain tumors depend on how aggressive the tumor is and where it is in the brain. For instance, if the tumor is in a part of the brain that sends movement signals, you might start being clumsy.

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Symptoms of a Brain Tumor

Symptoms of a brain tumor include:

  • Headaches that become more intense or frequent over time.
  • Seizures.
  • Poor coordination.
  • Dizziness or balance issues.
  • Changes in memory, reasoning, or other brain functions.
  • Confusion,
  • Speech issues, such as jumbling words.
  • Throwing up.
  • Hearing problems.
  • Weakness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Vision issues, such as blurred or double vision.
  • Gradual loss of movement or feeling in a limb.

Diagnosing Brain Tumors

Your doctor will first talk to you about your symptoms. Then they'll ask you to do certain tasks to test your vision and balance to assess brain function.

If the doctor suspects a brain tumor based on this assessment, they'll order a brain imaging scan, most often an MRI.

Abnormal tumor tissue shows up differently on these images than normal tissue. Doctors may also be able to learn if a tumor is benign, slow-growing, or aggressive based on MRI images.

The doctor may also order blood tests to look for proteins created by the tumor, that may show the tumor type.

If the care team can't confirm the tumor type from imaging and blood tests, they'll need to test the tumor itself.

They can do a biopsy to get a tissue sample to send to the lab for testing. Or they can send a piece of the tumor to the lab after they surgically remove it.

Genetic testing of a tumor sample can also provide further details about a tumor's molecular makeup. This can help guide treatment.

Brain Tumor Risk Factors

Though the overall risk of a brain tumor is low, some factors can put you more at risk.

  • Age. Some types of brain tumors are more common in kids. Others are more common in older adults. But brain tumors can occur at any age.
  • Gender. Men are more at risk of a brain tumor than women.
  • Genetics. Brain tumors are more common in people whose close relative, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or parent, had a brain tumor.
  • Inherited conditions. Brain tumors are more common in people who have certain genetic conditions. These include Turcot syndrome, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, neurofibromatosis, nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, von Hippel-Lindau disease, and tuberous sclerosis.
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals. The proof that links industrial chemicals to an increased risk of brain tumors varies by study. But it's vital to be aware of your exposure levels.
  • Radiation. Prior radiation treatments, especially to the head or neck, slightly increase the risk of a brain tumor.

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Brain and Nervous System Cancer Treatment Options

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Brain and Nervous System Cancer Clinical Trials and Research

At UPMC, we invest in cancer research because we want to improve survival rates and quality of life for people. Learn more about our promising new treatments for brain and nervous system cancers.

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