Symptoms of a benign brain tumour 

The symptoms of a benign or low-grade 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 do occur, it's because the brain tumour is putting pressure on the brain and/or preventing a specific area of the brain from functioning properly.

Signs of increased pressure on the brain

Common symptoms of increased pressure within the skull include:

  • severe, persistent headaches – which are typically worse in the morning or when bending over or coughing
  • persistent nausea and vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • vision problems – such as blurred vision, floaters and loss of vision that may come and go
  • seizures (fits) – which may affect the whole body or just involve a twitch in one area

Symptoms caused by the position of the tumour

Different areas of the brain control different functions, so the symptoms caused by a brain tumour will depend on where the tumour is 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
  • the temporal lobe may cause forgetfulness, language problems (aphasia) and seizures
  • the parietal lobe may cause aphasia and numbness or weakness in one side of the body
  • the occipital lobe may cause loss of vision on one side
  • the cerebellum may cause a loss of co-ordination, flickering of the eyes, vomiting and a stiff neck
  • the 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 a doctor if you develop persistent and worrying symptoms that may be caused by a brain tumour. While it's unlikely that you have a tumour, it's best to be sure by getting a proper diagnosis.

If your GP is unable to identify a more likely cause of your symptoms, they may refer you to a neurologist for further assessment and tests, such as a brain scan.

Read more about diagnosing benign brain tumours.

Page last reviewed: 18/03/2015

Next review due: 18/03/2017