Symptoms of a malignant brain tumour 

The symptoms of a malignant brain tumour depend on how big it is and where it is in the brain.

When symptoms do occur, it is because the brain tumour is either putting pressure on the brain or preventing an 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 malignant brain tumours.

Page last reviewed: 19/03/2015

Next review due: 19/03/2017