Brain tumors occur when cells in the brain get changes that cause them to grow more quickly. These abnormal growths put pressure on normal brain structures, causing different symptoms.

Signs of brain tumor can range from headache to vision problems. They can also include weakness or clumsiness in an arm or leg, seizures, and changes in behavior.

1. Headaches

Headaches are the most common brain tumor symptom. They can occur when the tumor presses on healthy brain cells or if the growth creates fluid that puts pressure on the surrounding tissues. If you have a headache that is getting worse, especially one that comes on suddenly or gets worse when you lie down or bend forward, that’s a red flag.

If the headache is accompanied by nausea or vomiting, that’s another indication of increased pressure in the skull. The same goes for changes in vision that can include blurred or doubled vision, loss of peripheral vision or seeing flashing lights or shapes. Uncontrolled jerking or twitching in the arms, legs or face and difficulty speaking or swallowing are other symptoms of a possible brain tumor.

It’s important to remember that people who have headaches, feeling sick or seizures are not always diagnosed with a brain tumor because other medical problems can also cause these symptoms. If no other explanation is found and these symptoms are recurrent or get worse, insist on being referred to a doctor for an MRI scan.

Slow-growing, low-grade brain tumors allow your body’s healthy tissue to adjust to the presence of the abnormal cell growth and may not produce many symptoms initially. On the other hand, malignant tumors grow rapidly and can produce a range of early symptoms including headaches, a change in behavior or seizures.

2. Loss of Sensation or Movement

Brain tumors can grow in different parts of the brain, and symptoms can vary depending on the location. Symptoms can occur gradually and become worse over time or they can come on suddenly, like with a seizure. Regardless of how they manifest, if you think something is wrong it’s important to see your doctor, and keep track of when and what happens so you can provide them with a full medical history.

For example, a tumor in the cerebrum (the upper front part of the brain) could cause problems with movement or sensory sensation. This is because that region of the brain controls movement, temperature sensation, touch and vision. The thalamus, another area of the brain, controls hearing and some types of vision. It also plays a role in mood, memory and thinking.

Vision changes are common with some brain tumors, especially those that grow near the optic nerve, which sends visual information to the brain. Blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision and seeing flashing lights or colors are all possible symptoms.

If a brain tumor is causing these types of symptoms, the doctor may refer you to a specialist called a neurologist, or a neurosurgeon. Depending on the results of your tests, these doctors will determine what treatment options are best for you.

3. Seizures

Brain tumors can also cause seizures (fits). Seizures are the first symptom most people get that makes them go to the doctor and have a scan. They can occur in up to 80% of patients with a brain tumor. They can happen slowly over months or even years, depending on where the tumor is located. They can also be more sudden if the tumor is fast growing. Typical symptoms are jerking or twitching of hands, arms or legs, loss of consciousness or periods of being unresponsive.

Other symptoms include balance problems, trouble swallowing and difficulty walking. They can vary depending on the location of the brain tumor. For example, tumors in the cerebellum commonly lead to balance and movement issues while those in the occipital lobes often cause vision problems. In some cases, the tumor will destroy the pituitary gland, which reduces hormone levels throughout the body and can result in nausea and vomiting.

Many of these brain tumor symptoms are very similar to other health conditions and can be caused by a multitude of factors. If the changes are persistent, though, or if they come and go, it is important to discuss them with a physician. It’s also a good idea to keep track of when and how often the symptoms occur, as this can help with diagnosis.

4. Changes in Behavior

When we think of symptoms like headaches, confusion or weakness on one side of the face, we might assume that they are just our body telling us to drink more water or get some sleep. However, they can also be an early warning sign of a brain tumor, especially when they occur frequently and don’t improve with usual treatment.

A tumor located in the cerebrum (the uppermost part of the brain) can cause a variety of symptoms depending on its location, size and speed of growth. For example, frontal lobe brain tumors can lead to changes in personality and thinking, while those in the back of the brain might affect movement.

Weakness, numbness or trouble moving your arms and legs might indicate that a tumor is located in the occipital lobe or in the brainstem. Swallowing problems may point to a brain tumor near the cerebellum.

A tremor, which is often a sign of a brain tumor, can be caused by the rapid growth of the tumor or the pressure it creates within your skull. Other symptoms can include trouble breathing, loss of appetite, slurred speech or a stiff wry neck. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.