The symptoms of a benign (non-cancerous) brain tumour depend on its size and where it is in the brain.
Some slow-growing tumours may not cause any symptoms at first. When symptoms occur, it's because the tumour is putting pressure on the brain and preventing a specific area of the brain from functioning properly.
Increased pressure on the brain
Common symptoms of increased pressure within the skull include:
- new, persistent headaches – which are sometimes worse in the morning or when bending over or coughing
- persistent nausea and vomiting
- vision problems – such as blurred vision, double vision, loss of part of the visual field (hemianopia), and temporary vision loss
- epileptic fits (seizures) – which may affect the whole body, or you may just have a twitch in one area
Location of the tumour
Different areas of the brain control different functions, so the symptoms of a brain tumour will depend on where it's located.
For example, a tumour affecting the:
- frontal lobe – may cause changes in personality, weakness in one side of the body, and loss of smell
- temporal lobe – may cause forgetfulness, language problems (aphasia), and seizures
- parietal lobe – may cause aphasia, numbness or weakness in one side of the body, and co-ordination problems (dyspraxia), such as difficulty dressing
- occipital lobe – may cause loss of vision on one side of the visual field (hemianopia)
- cerebellum – may cause balance problems (ataxia), flickering of the eyes (nystagmus), and vomiting
- brain stem – may cause unsteadiness and difficulty walking, facial weakness, double vision, and difficulty speaking (dysarthria) and swallowing (dysphagia)
When to see your GP
It's important to see your GP if you have symptoms like those described above.
While it's unlikely that you have a tumour, these type of symptoms need to be evaluated by a doctor so the cause can be identified.
If your GP is unable to find a more likely cause of your symptoms, they may refer you to a brain and nerve specialist called a neurologist for further assessment and tests, such as a brain scan.
Read more about diagnosing non-cancerous brain tumours.