Brain cancer symptoms

The symptoms of brain tumours depend on where the tumour is located and whether it is causing pressure in the skull or on the brain or spinal cord. Sometimes, when a tumour grows slowly, symptoms develop gradually, so you may not be aware of its presence at first.

General symptoms of brain or spinal cord tumours include headaches, seizures, changes in personality, or changes in balance. Increased pressure in the skull can result in nausea, vomiting and confusion. Tumours may also cause weakness or paralysis in parts of the body.

Other symptoms include memory loss, vision loss, hearing difficulties or speech changes. Symptoms may differ depending on where in the brain or spinal cord the tumour is located – see Symptoms by part of the brain.

– Richard

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

Learn more about:

Symptoms by part of the brain

Part of the brain


Frontal lobe

  • changes in personality, including loss of inhibition
  • mood swings
  • difficulty with planning and organising
  • weakness in part of the face, or on one side of the body
  • difficulty walking
  • loss of sense of smell
  • problems with your sight or speech

Parietal lobe

  • difficulty speaking or understanding what is said to you
  • problems with reading or writing
  • loss of feeling in part of the body

Temporal lobe

  • forgetting words
  • difficulty finding the correct word
  • short term memory loss
  • fits associated with strange feelings, smells or déjà-vu
  • hearing voices in your head

Occipital lobe

  • partial or complete loss of vision


  • coordination problems
  • uncontrolled eye movement
  • stiff neck
  • dizziness

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, particularly peripheral vision
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sexual problems

Brain stem

  • coordination problems
  • difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • double vision
  • drooping eyelid or mouth on one side


  • headaches
  • vomiting
  • weakness in an arm or a leg
  • personality changes or confusion
  • seizures (fits)

Optic nerve

  • vision problems

Hearing nerve

  • hearing problems

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 May 2016
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