Brain cancer symptoms

In some cases, a brain tumour grows slowly and symptoms develop gradually, so you may not be aware that anything is wrong at first. In other cases, symptoms appear suddenly.

Many symptoms of brain tumours are more likely to be caused by other factors. However, any new, persistent or worsening symptoms should be reported to your doctor.

General symptoms – Brain tumour symptoms may be caused by increased pressure in the skull (intracranial pressure). Pressure can build up because the tumour itself is taking up too much space or because it is blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain.

Intracranial pressure can lead to symptoms such as:

  • headaches – often worse when you wake up
  • nausea and vomiting – often worse in the morning or after changing position (e.g. moving from sitting to standing)
  • confusion and irritability
  • blurred or double vision
  • seizures (fits) – can be obvious, involving a loss of consciousness, or more subtle, such as “zoning out”
  • weakness in parts of the body
  • drowsiness – a later symptom.

Symptoms caused by tumour position – Other symptoms relate to where in the brain or spinal cord the tumour is located – see the diagram below.

– Richard

Learn more about:

Symptoms by part of the brain

Some brain tumour symptoms depend on where the tumour is located. See above for general symptoms caused by pressure in the skull.


Part of the brain


Frontal lobe

  • difficulty with planning or organising
  • changes in behaviour, personality and social skills
  • depression or mood swings
  • weakness in part of the face, or on one side of the body
  • difficulty walking
  • loss of sense of smell
  • sight or speech problems
  • trouble finding the right word

Parietal lobe

  • problems with reading or writing
  • loss of feeling in part of the body
  • difficulty with spatial awareness, e.g. telling left from right, locating objects

Temporal lobe

  • forgetting events and conversations
  • difficulty understanding what is said to you
  • trouble learning and remembering new information
  • seizures with strange feelings, smells or deja vu

Occipital lobe

  • loss of all or some vision


  • coordination and balance problems
  • uncontrolled eye movement
  • stiff neck
  • dizziness
  • difficulty speaking (staccato speech)

Spinal cord

  • back and neck pain
  • numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • clumsiness or difficulty walking
  • loss of bowel or bladder control (incontinence)

Pituitary gland

  • headaches
  • loss of vision (often peripheral vision)
  • nausea or vomiting
  • erection problems
  • less interest in sex
  • thyroid and other hormone changes

Brain stem

  • coordination problems
  • difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • double vision
  • facial weakness and numbness
  • weakness and fatigue
  • changes to sleep/wake patterns


  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • weakness in arm or leg
  • personality changes or confusion

Video: Symptoms and symptom management for brain cancer

Learn more about some of the common symptoms of brain cancer, including seizures, and personality and behavioural changes, and how to manage these.

This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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