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Quick Facts

Overview of Brain Tumors


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Feb 2021| Content last modified Feb 2021
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What is a brain tumor?

A brain tumor is a growth in your brain that may or may not be cancer. Brain tumors may start in your brain or may have spread to your brain (metastasized) from another part of your body.

What are the symptoms of brain tumors?

Brain tumor symptoms may start suddenly or develop slowly over time. Symptoms include:

  • Headaches, especially if they happen more often or get worse when you lie down

  • Problems with mental function and mood, such as becoming withdrawn, moody, drowsy, or confused, or acting in ways that are a change from your usual personality

  • Feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up

  • Blurred vision

  • Dizziness, loss of balance, and clumsiness

  • Seizures

  • Being sleepy and confused

Depending on which area of the brain the tumor is in, it may affect:

  • Movement of an arm, a leg, or one side of your body

  • Speaking or understanding language

  • Your sense of hearing, smell, or sight

How can doctors tell if I have a brain tumor?

How do doctors treat a brain tumor?

Doctors treat a brain tumor based on where it is and the symptoms you're having. Unlike tumors in other parts of your body, whether a brain tumor is a cancer or not isn't as important. Noncancerous tumors can cause severe brain problems too. Treatments include:

If you have a very small, noncancerous tumor that isn't causing many symptoms, doctors may leave it alone.

End-of-life issues

People with cancerous brain tumors may quickly become unable to make decisions about their medical care and end-of-life needs. If you have a cancerous brain tumor, speak to a counselor or social worker to help you create an advance directive. An advance directive Advance Directives Health care advance directives are legal documents that communicate a person’s wishes about health care decisions in the event the person becomes incapable of making health care decisions. There... read more is a plan to let your loved ones and doctors know what kinds of medical care you want toward the end of your life.

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