Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

What are the symptoms of a brain tumor?

The following are the most common symptoms of a brain tumor. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Many symptoms are related to an increase in pressure in or around the brain. There is no spare space in the skull for anything except the delicate tissues of the brain and its fluid. Any tumor, extra tissue or fluid can cause pressure on the brain and result in increased intracranial pressure, which may result from one or more of the ventricles that drain cerebral spinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) becoming blocked and causing the fluid to be trapped in the brain. This increased intracranial pressure may cause the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting (usually in the morning)
  • Nausea
  • Personality changes
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Decreased cardiac and respiratory function and, eventually, coma if not treated

Brain tumors in the cerebrum (front of brain) may cause the following symptoms:

  • Increased intracranial pressure
  • Seizures
  • Visual changes
  • Slurred speech
  • Paralysis or weakness on half of the body or face
  • Drowsiness and/or confusion
  • Personality changes

Brain tumors in the brain stem (middle of brain) may cause the following symptoms:

  • Increased intracranial pressure
  • Seizures
  • Endocrine problems (diabetes and/or hormone regulation)
  • Visual changes or double vision.
  • Headaches
  • Paralysis of nerves/muscles of the face, or half of the body
  • Respiratory changes

Brain tumors in the cerebellum (back of brain) may cause the following symptoms:

  • Increased intracranial pressure
  • Vomiting (usually occurs in the morning without nausea).
  • Headache
  • Uncoordinated muscle movements
  • Problems walking (ataxia)

The symptoms of a brain tumor may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child’s physician for a diagnosis.