Is headache the first sign of brain tumour?

Tension or migraine can give you a headache. But don't take headaches lightly if they are severe and you experience them frequently. A headache might be a sign of brain tumour.
What's the link between a headache and brain tumour? Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Updated: 17 Oct 2023, 18:34 pm IST
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We all experience headache from time-to-time, and it is rarely something that calls for a hospital visit. When there is lot of stress at home or work, you can have a headache. Sometimes loud kids can also make head spin! Women with migraine experience it too. Some even complain of having a headache during pregnancy. You can blame it on a lot of things, but do you know a headache can also be a sign of brain tumour. You shouldn’t take it lightly, especially when headaches are frequent and severe for you or your loved ones.

To explore the connection between headache and brain tumour, HealthShots connected with Dr Abhidha Shah, Consultant, Neurosurgery, Apollo Hospitals Navi Mumbai.

What is a brain tumour?

A brain tumour is an abnormal growth of cells in the brain or surrounding tissues. There are two main types, one being primary brain tumour, which originate in the brain. The other one is metastatic brain tumour, which begins as cancer in another part of the body and then spreads to the brain, explains the expert.

brain tumor
Headache may be an early sign of brain tumor. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Is headache an early sign of brain tumour?

Dr Shah says headache is a sign of a brain tumour, but that doesn’t mean it’s a medical emergency all the time. If your family member experiences headaches that are severe, frequent and/or accompanied by other symptoms like seizures, vision changes or difficulty speaking, it is important to check with a neurologist. Headache is a common symptom of brain tumour, particularly those located in the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain. So, headaches may be persistent and severe. They may trouble your loved one in the morning and improve throughout the day. They might even vomit and often times the vomiting relieves the headache.

Other common signs of brain tumour

Here are some other symptoms of brain tumour you must know.

1. Seizures

Seizures are a common symptom of brain tumours, particularly those located in the temporal or parietal lobes of the brain, says Dr Shah. Seizures may be focal or generalised, and can involve different parts of the body.

2. Vision changes

They might have blurred vision, double vision, or loss of peripheral vision if they have a brain tumour. That’s because it is located near the optic nerve or visual pathways can cause vision changes.

3. Numbness

Brain tumour can cause weakness or numbness in the limbs, particularly on one side of the body.

4. Changes in mood or personality

Brain tumours can also cause changes in mood, behaviour or personality. You may notice depression and irritability.

5. Difficulty with balance or coordination

Brain tumours can affect the cerebellum, which controls balance and coordination, says the expert. So, your loved one might have difficulty in walking or performing coordinated movements.

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brain tumor
People with brain tumor may also have difficulty in walking. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Treatment for brain tumour

Wondering if your loved one can survive a brain tumour? At least take them for treatment, which comes down to the type, size, location, and grade of the tumour. Then the overall health and preferences also come into play.

Treatment options include:

1. Surgery

Surgery is usually the first thing doctors suggest as a treatment for this brain condition, particularly for those that are located in a place that can be safely accessed by surgery. The goal is basically to remove as much of the tumour as possible without causing any damage to the surrounding brain tissue.

2. Radiation therapy

It uses high-energy beams of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours. It may be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells, or as the primary treatment for tumours that cannot be surgically removed.

3. Chemotherapy

It uses drugs to kill cancer cells, and may be used alone or in combination with other treatments.

Pain management, anti-seizure medications, and physical therapy may be also used to manage symptoms and improve quality of life for people with this condition.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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