by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Symptoms depend on where the tumor is, how big it is, and how fast it is growing. Problems may start quickly or slowly get worse over time. Seizures may be due to injury to a specific part of the nervous system or an increase in pressure within the nervous system.

Problems may be:


Brain tumors often cause headaches that get worse over time. This is due to increased pressure in the skull caused by:

  • Tumor growth
  • Swelling from tissue around the tumor
  • Blockage of fluid around the brain and spine

Headaches are often most painful when a person wakes up.


A seizure is often the first sign of a brain tumor. A seizure can happen suddenly and sometimes without warning. Some people may feel a strange feeling called an aura before one happens.

There are two types:

  • Generalized seizures start in one part of the brain and spread. They may cause shaking, loss of consciousness, loss of urine and bowel control, or tongue biting.
  • Focal seizures start in one part of the brain. They may cause one part of the body to shake without control. They may also happen without any shaking. A person may or may not lose consciousness. Focal seizures may progress to a generalized seizure.

Not all seizures cause shaking. 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
  • Tiredness
  • Balance problems

Other Physical and Neurological Symptoms

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

  • Speaking
  • Memory
  • Understanding language
  • Feeling and processing sensory input
  • Personality or behavior
  • Muscle strength
  • Movements
  • Coordination and walking
  • Bladder and bowel control


Adult central nervous system tumors treatment (PDQ®)–health professional version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Accessed July 13, 2021.

Astrocytoma and oligodentroglioma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed July 13, 2021.

Meningioma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed July 13, 2021.

Overview of intracranial tumors. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Accessed July 13, 2021.

Signs and symptoms of adult brain and spinal cord tumors. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed July 13, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 07/2021
  • Update Date: 07/12/2021