Brain cancer symptoms
Symptoms depend on where the tumour is in the brain and how slowly or quickly the tumour is growing. It can develop suddenly or gradually over time.
Many symptoms are likely to be caused by other factors, but see your doctor about any new, persistent or worsening symptoms.
Learn more about:
- General symptoms
- Symptoms caused by the position of the tumour
- Video: Symptoms and symptom management for brain cancer
Brain tumours can increase pressure inside the skull (known as 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.
This increased 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) – might have some jerking or twitching of your hands, arms or legs, or can affect the whole body
- loss of consciousness
- weakness in parts of the body
- drowsiness – a later symptom.
Symptoms caused by the position of the tumor
Other symptoms depend on where the tumour is located in the brain or spinal cord – see below for more on this.
Common tumour symptoms
The type of symptoms you experience will depend on where the tumour is in the brain. See above for general symptoms caused by pressure in the skull.
|Part of the brain||Symptom|
|Parietal lobe|| |
|Spinal cord|| |
|Pituitary gland|| |
Video: Symptoms and symptom management for brain cancer
A/Prof Andrew Davidson, Neurosurgeon, Macquarie University Hospital, NSW; Dr Lucy Gately, Medical Oncologist, Oncology Clinics Victoria, and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, VIC; Melissa Harrison, Allied Health Manager and Senior Neurological Physiotherapist, Advance Rehab Centre, NSW; Scott Jones, Consumer; Anne King, Neurology Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Health Department, WA; Dr Toni Lindsay, Senior Clinical Psychologist and Allied Health Manager, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Elissa McVey, Consumer; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Claire Phillips, Deputy Director, Radiation Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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