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11 Masked Symptoms of a Brain Tumor You Cannot Ignore

Lindsey Munn | May 6, 2018

A brain tumor has no unique symptoms associated with it. These tumors can come in all shapes and sizes, and grow very silently. Given the importance of the brain in controlling all aspects of your physical and emotional development, every cell in the brain is vulnerable to this disease. This results in vast permutations and combinations of symptoms associated with brain tumors.

According to Dr. Theodore Schwartz, a neurosurgeon at Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, it is the location of the tumor that will determine the symptoms. For instance, a tumor that affects the part of your brain associated with movement of a limb may result in weakness to that limb. Similarly, a tumor affecting the part of your brain that controls eyesight can cause blurry vision. It is easy to confuse the symptoms of brain cancer with many other ailments, such as migraine headaches, depression, and even ear infections.

The Dreaded Diagnosis


On the bright side, brain cancer is found in less than 1% of the world’s population. However, it is also true that brain tumors do not have any distinguishing symptoms, making it easy to mistake them for everyday ailments. So, when do you see a doctor if headaches and exhaustion are the only symptoms you have? Knowing more about some masked symptoms of a brain tumor will help you make this call. Here are some common brain tumor symptoms to watch out for.

A Headache That Will Not Go Away


Differentiating between regular headaches and those caused by a brain tumor can be difficult even for experienced doctors. Dr. Mike Chen, an associate professor of neurosurgery at City of Hope National Medical Center, says that you should be concerned if the headache has appeared recently and just will not go away.

One characteristic of such headaches is that they worsen gradually and are usually present early in the morning, as soon as you wake up. It is believed that the pressure on the cranium due to lying in bed for many hours causes this. Irrespective of the size of the tumor, the pain can vary.

According to Santhosh Kesari, a neuro-oncologist and chair of the department of translational neuro-oncology and neurotherapeutics at John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California, a tumor that is small but growing fast can bring on a headache just as severe as one caused by a large tumor that is progressing slowly. Also, identifying the type of headache is of no help in determining whether someone has a brain tumor. The only thing to watch out for is new, persistent headaches that do not subside with home remedies or over-the-counter medicines.

Slight Vision Loss


You might not even notice that you have this particular symptom, let alone associate it with a brain tumor. Your loss in vision might become apparent only when you start knocking over things on the side of the body where the vision loss has occurred.

According to Christopher Carrubba, MD, co-director for Medical Education at Med School Tutors, this type of impaired peripheral vision, known as bitemporal hemianopsia, is seen often in those with pituitary tumors that result in compression of the optic chiasm, also known as the visual pathway. Quite often, this condition is first diagnosed by ophthalmologists.

Fatigue and Weakness


The water content of sweet corn keeps coming up again and again, and for good reason. Water contributes to digestion (and so many other things). It helps to lubricate the digestive tract, filter harmful substances from the body, and even evacuates the waste as a key component of urine. It helps create the texture of feces as well, contributing to smooth bowel movements. Fiber, also found in sweet corn, contributes to digestion as well, because it too plays a role in bowel movements. Specifically, fiber is a food source for the intestinal bacteria which help to break down our food.

Speech Difficulties


According to Dr. Carruba, stuttering, difficulty understanding others’ speech and problems with naming objects can indicate the presence of a tumor in the frontal or temporal lobes. These are parts of the brain that control motor function of speech and language comprehension.

He added that Wernicke’s area, which permits one to understand and comprehend speech, and Broca’s area, which controls the muscles that create sound, are the two speech centers of the brain. A tumor can have an adverse impact on both of these.

Signs of Depression


When a tumor exerts pressure on the frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for personality traits, you can experience emotions like depression, anger, and anxiety.

Dr. Sumeet Vadra, a neurosurgeon at University of California Irvine, opines that behavior variations like being quick to anger, increased risk-taking, excessive sexuality, and loss of inhibitions might occur as a result of a frontal lobe tumor. Large, slow-growing tumors in this part of the brain can also result in criminal behavior or a psychiatric issue.

Change in Hearing


Symptoms such as hearing loss on one side or a continuous ringing in your ears might be indicative of a temporal lobe tumor. This is the part of the brain that controls your ability to hear and understand language and conversation. Since these symptoms can also be caused by various other conditions, a consultation with your doctor will help you find out if you need to seek the opinion of a neurologist.

Fertility Problems


At first glance, this might seem like the least likely symptom of a brain tumor. However, it is the brain that controls hormone production in the body through the pituitary gland. Dr. Chen says that tumors impacting this gland can secrete large amounts of hormones or at times prevent the normal gland from carrying out its functions.

This is why many women who cannot conceive or fail to produce milk after the birth of their baby need to be evaluated for brain tumors.

Intermittent Seizures


Seizures are just as scary as they sound, and there are different types. There is the kind where you go blank for a period of time and do not respond to people around you. Then there is the kind that makes you notice odd smells and sensations.

Still other seizures affect you physically, wherein your body might jerk, stiffen, or twitch, even causing you to fall down. When this happens, there is a greater risk of you biting your tongue or cheek and you might be unconscious for a while.

Experiencing seizures or witnessing them can be traumatic and frightening for you as well as your loved ones. Seizures can tire you out and leave you feeling confused for a while. Time and rest are essential to help you recover from a seizure followed by a thorough medical investigation regarding the cause.

Personality, Behavior, or Thought Transformations


Tumors can invoke the most unlikely changes in your personality and behavior. In some instances, the impact is on thoughts, reasoning ability, or memory. Often, it is a family member or dear friend who first notices these changes.

Though it can be upsetting, there are plenty of ways to cope with this and seeking treatment immediately can prove helpful to you and your family.

Feeling Like a Klutz


Misplacing your keys, losing your balance now and then, having difficulty navigating steps, or any kind of clumsiness when it comes to your limbs should not be brushed off easily. Schwartz says that if you are having difficulty swallowing, trouble speaking, or keeping your facial expressions in check, then it might be time to seek some expert advice from your doctor.

Queasiness and Lack of Sensation


When nausea persists and does not seem to have any reasonable explanation, you are right to be concerned, according to Dr. Schwartz, who feels it might be a sign of a brain tumor. If any part of your body or face starts feeling numb or you experience a loss of feeling, it is time to act.

This can be caused by a tumor on the brain stem and as it increases in size, so does the pressure inside your skull. Known as raised intracranial pressure, a large tumor, swelling, or other blockage as a result of the tumor might be causing this.