About the signs and symptoms of a brain tumour

Symptoms depend on where the tumour is in the brain and how slowly or quickly it grows. They may develop suddenly, or slowly over months or even years.

As a tumour grows, it can press on or grow into nearby areas of the brain. This can cause symptoms because it stops that part of the brain from working normally. Symptoms can also happen because the tumour is increasing the pressure inside the skull.

These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than a brain tumour. But it is important to get them checked by your GP straight away.



A brain tumour can cause headaches, but it is unusual for this to be the only symptom. Headaches are usually dull and constant, and sometimes throbbing.

Most people get headaches from time to time, often because of stress or tension. If your headaches are getting worse over time or are different from your usual headaches, see your GP.

It is very important you see a doctor if your headaches wake you up at night or are worse in the morning. And especially if you also feel sick or notice a change in your eyesight.

Symptoms of increased pressure inside the skull

A tumour can increase the pressure inside the skull. This is called raised intracranial pressure. It can be caused by the size of the tumour, or because the tumour is blocking the flow of fluid in the brain.

The most common symptoms of this are headaches, feeling sick and vomiting.

The headache may be worse in the morning or get worse when you cough, sneeze or bend down. Increased pressure can also cause symptoms, such as changes to your sight, feeling confused or problems with your balance.


This is another common symptom of brain tumours. There are different types of seizures.

Changes in personality, behaviour or thinking

A tumour can cause changes in personality and behaviour. Some people have problems with their thinking, reasoning or memory. Sometimes family members or close friends are the first to notice if this happens.

These changes can be upsetting for you and your family or friends. We have more information about coping with changes.

Symptoms of tumour position

Different areas of the brain have different functions. A tumour may cause symptoms because its position in the brain stops a part of the brain from working normally.

The position of tumour and possible problems

Frontal lobe

  • changes in personality or behaviour
  • difficulty planning or making decisions
  • unsteady or un-coordinated walking
  • weakness on one side of the body
  • memory problems.

Parietal lobe

  • problems with speech and understanding
  • difficulty writing, reading and doing simple calculations
  • difficulty finding your way around
  • numbness or weakness on one side of the body.

Temporal lobe

  • muddled speech
  • memory problems.

Occipital lobe

  • sight problems or losing part of your vision.


  • poor co-ordination
  • double vision or blurred vision
  • unsteadiness
  • slurred speech.

Brain stem

  • double vision
  • dizziness
  • unsteady or un-coordinated walking
  • facial weakness
  • speech or swallowing problems.

Pituitary gland

  • symptoms of changing hormone gland levels, such as infertility, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, mood swings, irregular periods or enlarged hands and feet
  • tunnel vision.

Cranial nerves

  • hearing or eyesight problems
  • feeling dizzy and having problems with balance
  • pain, numbness or weakness of the face
  • speech or swallowing problems.

Getting support

We understand that showing any symptoms of what could be cancer is worrying. The most important thing is to speak to your GP as soon as possible. We're also here if you need someone to talk to. You can:

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Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 October 2019
Next review: 01 October 2021

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

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