Are headaches a sign of brain tumor?

Are headaches a sign of brain tumor

At a Glance:

1. What are the types of headaches?

2. Are headaches a symptom of brain tumor?

3. What do brain tumor headaches feel like?

4. When to visit the doctor?

A bad headache can be a frightening experience and may come along with a common thought of having a serious health problem. There are several underlying conditions that can cause a headache, including brain tumor. Read further to know how to recognize a brain tumor headache.

What are the types of headaches?

We have all experienced headaches at some point in our lives. There are two major kinds of headaches: primary headaches and secondary headaches. 

Primary headaches include:

  • Migraines
  • Cluster headaches
  • Tension headaches

Secondary headaches, on the other hand, are caused by underlying factors such as medical conditions.

Are headaches a symptom of brain tumor?

Headaches that worsen over time are common symptoms of a brain tumor. Most headaches may occur due to other reasons for healthy people. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, symptoms of a brain tumor may vary depending on the pain, size and exact location of the tumor in the brain. It is only when a tumor grows large enough to put pressure on nerves in the brain that it can start to cause headaches.

What do brain tumor headaches feel like?

A brain tumor headache is different from that of a migraine or tension. Below are some general signs and symptoms of a headache caused due to a brain tumor: 

  • Headaches that wake you up at night.
  • Headache pain that changes as you change your position
  • Headache pain that does not react to pain relievers. 
  • Headaches that are persistent and lasts for days or weeks.
  • Waking up frequently with a headache can be a sign of having a tumor. Keep in mind other conditions such as sleep apnea can also cause morning headaches.

When to visit the doctor?

A new or unusual headache is already a red flag. It could be a cause of concern if the headache is persistent and does not wear off like it normally would with typical measures such as pain relievers. This could be enough reason to see a primary care physician.

A headache can be caused due to a brain tumor. You should consider visiting a doctor in the following cases:

  • If you have been diagnosed with cancer in your body and are experiencing headaches
  • If a headache that continues to worsen and interferes heavily with your everyday activities
  • Persistent dizziness or loss of balance
  • Increasing pressure in the back of the head
  • Headache accompanied by nausea or vomiting
  • Seizure or inability to speak
  • Double or blurred vision or even vision loss
  • Change in personality such as emotional withdrawal or becoming confused easily
  • Gradually worsening weakness or loss of sensation, especially on one side of the body

Most headaches are not a cause of concern. Any headache that continues to worsen with no response to typical measures should be immediately evaluated. Make an appointment with your doctor if your symptoms start to expand beyond the usual headache discomfort.

  • “Signs and Symptoms”. American brain tumor association. https://www.abta.org/about-brain-tumors/brain-tumor-diagnosis/brain-tumor-signs-symptoms/ Accessed 16th January 2020.
  • “Sign and Symptoms of Adults Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors”. American Cancer Society. .https://www.cancer.org/cancer/brain-spinal-cord-tumors-adults/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html Accessed 16th January 2020.
  • “Brain Tumor”. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/brain-tumor/symptoms-causes/syc-20350084 Accessed 16th January 2020.
  • “Is a Certain Type of Headache a Sign of a Brain Tumor?”. Healthline.https://www.healthline.com/health/brain-tumor-headaches-is-my-headache-a-sign-of-a-brain-tumor#outlook Accessed 16th January 2020
  • “Is a Headache a Sign of a Brain Tumor?”. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  https://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2018/05/headache-sign-brain-tumor/ Accessed 16th January 2020.
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