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Symptoms and Signs of Brain Cancer

21Dec 2022

Symptoms and Signs of Brain Cancer

Neoplasm of the brain, called brain cancer in lay terms, is one of the most challenging types of cancer to diagnose and treat in most patients. Of several different kinds of neoplasms, glioma of the brain is the most common type of cancer of the central nervous system, which is diagnosed in approximately 100, 000 individuals annually in the US. This article will introduce you to the early signs and symptoms of brain tumors so that some of its treatment perplexes can be managed.

What are the common symptoms and signs of Brain Cancer?


Inadvertently, headache is the most common symptom of brain cancer. A recent, large multi – centre retrospective study of patients which evaluated data over the past 10 years reported that more than 50 % of the total cases have headache as the most initial symptom 

Often, it is recounted alongside the complaint of nausea and vomiting. In a few cases where the tumour has progressed to an advanced stage, altered mental status may be manifested. The type of headache you perceive will depend on the area of brain where the lesion is situated and the state of its progression.

Anywhere between a sharp to dull pain or an increased pressure in the region of your head may be felt. At the time of diagnosis of brain tumour, almost 60 % of the patients present with headache as per records from the PubMed database. So, you can evaluate how seriously you need to take this symptom.

Focal Signs 

Focal signs or focal neurological deficits refer to the signs and symptoms of the patient, which are primarily seen due to impairment of the nerve, spinal cord and brain function. Focal means that the sign will be concentrated to a specific region of the body such as weakness in the right arm or leg.

In high – grade tumors, these symptoms may advance to paresis or plegia, describing a state where extreme weakness will be felt by the patient or there will be a partial / total loss of all voluntary movements. While focal signs may not be as common in early stages, the aforementioned study reported them to be as common as headache in overall cases of brain cancer.

Cognitive Changes

The most common cognitive change that is seen in brain cancer patients is memory loss. It may even be regarded as physiological in elderly patients, but, it really shouldn’t be when, especially if felt in combination with headache.

Other cognitive symptoms that you may face include calculative errors, lack of concentration on a particular task or activity, recurrent forgetfulness, confusion and loss of clarity of decisions. Speech defects are also noted in patients with an advanced stage of tumor.

Behavioural Changes

Behavioural changes are non – specific symptoms of brain cancer, which may be seen differently in different persons. Maybe you are generally an optimistic and focused individual and you suddenly start feeling more muddled, dizzy and start having frequent mood swings

Or you could be at the top of your team in your job situation and may experience an unexpected professional downfall because you are no longer as energetic or certain of your decisions. If you notice thus, you must pause and begin to think that these changes could be because of neoplastic changes that could be going in your brain slowly affecting the memory and decision making centres of its anatomical structure 


Seizures are a sign of brain cancer, in cases where they are not associated with a known aetiology such as a medical history of epileptic conditions. You may experience a typical seizure with muscle spasms and contractions or may have seemingly un-harmful episodes of ‘faint and fall’.

In some other cases, facing a ‘blackout’ or falling down spontaneously with hazy memories of the cause are its symptoms. In advanced cases of tumour, these may cause stroke due to increased intracranial pressure in the head affecting the brain structures.

Episodic Symptoms

Many individuals feel an episodic headache, which resolves on its own, until, it is felt again after a few weeks or months. In some cases, there are also specific trigger points for pain, and its severity massively increases on touching these areas, but, the discomfort resolves on its own.

Sharp, severe and lancinating pain due to these episodic headcahes could be because of the manifestation of neuralgia, which is seen in some cases of brain cancer. You can differentiate it from other types of headache because the intensity of pain will be very severe, making it difficult to be managed by OTC medications.

Visual disturbances

Visual defects include impairment of vision, reduced focus, blurriness or vision, double vision or complete loss of vision, the latter being seen only in a few cases. Visual defects are prominent in almost 7 – 8 % of the total cases as per the findings of a recent systematic review of cancer patients 

These symptoms are evidenced regardless of your age and are seen in all groups with or without any co-existing defects.

Other symptoms

Like all cancers, individuals with brain neoplasms also experience symptoms such as generalised fatigue, weight loss and loss of appetite. In combination with severe neurologic or cognitive changes, it is also possible that the person may experience a drastic change in food habits or she may refuse to take regular meals.

Balance issues, drowsiness, coordination issues, repeated episodes of falls, reduction in likeness for performing life activities and personality defects are also not uncommon. Other than this, language issues, difficulty in interpreting new information, facial numbness or pain, weakness of the limbs and lack of coordination of arms and legs of the same side of the body may be seen

Overall, headache is the most common symptom of brain cancer, and is seen in over 70 % of the patients at some point during their phase of illness. So, if you are suffering from frequent headache, it is recommended to schedule a CT or MRI scan to rule out the risk of cancer if so prescribed by your physician.

If you want book an appoinment you can also consult with our Brain tumor cancer doctor in gurgaon

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Sunny Garg
Dr. Sunny Garg

Best Oncologist in Gurgaon & Cancer Specialist - Oncoexperts

Dr Sunny Garg is a renowned Medical Oncologist in New Delhi with an experience of more than 10 years of treating cancer patients.

He has studied in one of the most reputed educational institutes of India. He has done his MBBS and MD Internal Medicine from Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University. Thereafter, he has undergone training in Medical Oncology (DM Medical Oncology) from Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Bengaluru. He has worked in leading cancer centers in Delhi, and currently practicing at Manipal Hospital, Dwarka, New Delhi.

Dr Sunny Garg has extensive knowledge and experience in the field of oncology, and has treated all cancer types, in various stages, including hard to treat cases. He is well versed with various modalities for cancer treatment like Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy, Hormonal Therapy and Personalised Cancer Therapy.