What We Treat

Brain Tumors: How do They Form and What are Their Symptoms

Brain tumors are abnormal growths of cells found in the brain. These growths can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). A benign brain tumor may harm you by pressing against your brain or adjacent structures. This might require immediate medical attention because it might be life-threatening or impact other parts of your body.
Brain tumors can occur in children and adults and develop anywhere within the brain or spinal cord. They are a concerning diagnosis that can cause a range of symptoms. These symptoms can vary depending on the location and size of the tumor. In this blog post, we will explore how brain tumors form and what their symptoms are.

What are the types of brain tumors?

There are two main categories of brain tumors: primary and secondary. Primary brain tumors are tumors that originate in the brain, while secondary brain tumors are tumors that have spread to the brain from other parts of the body.

  • Primary brain tumors are classified based on the type of cell they originate from. For example, Gliomas are tumors that originate from glial cells, which provide support and protection to the neurons in the brain.  
  • Secondary brain tumors are tumors that have spread to the brain from other parts of the body. The most common types of cancer that can spread to the brain include lung, breast, and skin cancers.

How do brain tumors form?

The development of a brain tumor is a complex process that involves the abnormal growth of cells within the brain. Normally, cells in the body grow and divide in an orderly and controlled manner. However, in the case of a brain tumor, this process is disrupted, and cells grow and divide uncontrollably.

The exact cause of brain tumors is not fully understood, but certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing a brain tumor. These risk factors include:

  • Age. Brain tumors are more common in older adults, although they can occur at any age.
  • Family history. A family history of brain tumors can increase the risk of developing a brain tumor because some brain tumors may be inherited or caused by mutations in specific genes.
  • Radiation exposure. Exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation, such as radiation therapy for cancer treatment, may increase the risk of developing a brain tumor.
  • Immune system disorders. People with certain immune system disorders, such as HIV/AIDS, are at an increased risk of developing a brain tumor.
  • Environmental factors. Exposure to certain chemicals or substances, such as pesticides or lead, may increase the risk of developing a brain tumor.

What are the symptoms of brain tumors?

Based on the brain tissues they impact, there are over 120 types of brain tumors. The symptoms of a brain tumor will vary based on where the tumor is located because different parts of the brain are responsible for different functions. For example, having a brain tumor in the cerebellum at the back of the skull will make it difficult to balance and coordinate your movements. 

The signs an individual will experience also depend on the size and growth rate of the tumor. The symptoms of brain tumors are not always present. In reality, meningioma, the most prevalent brain tumor in adults, frequently progresses undetected because of its slow growth. Symptoms might not appear until a tumor is large enough to interfere with healthy brain tissues.

Some common symptoms of brain tumors include:

1. Headaches

Headaches are a common symptom of brain tumors. These headaches are usually more severe in the morning and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound.

2. Seizures

Seizures can occur when the tumor puts pressure on the brain or irritates the surrounding tissues. They can range from mild to severe and include loss of consciousness or convulsions.

3. Changes in vision

Brain tumors can cause vision changes, including double vision, blurred vision, and vision loss. These changes may be sudden or gradual and affect one or both eyes.

5. Changes in speech or hearing

Brain tumors can cause changes in speech or hearing, including difficulty speaking, slurred speech, or difficulty hearing. These changes may be sudden or gradual and affect one or both ears.

4. Weakness or numbness

Brain tumors can cause weakness or numbness in one side of your body. These symptoms may affect the arms, legs, or face. They may be sudden or gradual and accompanied by difficulty speaking or understanding language.

6. Personality changes

Brain tumors can cause personality changes, including mood swings, depression, and irritability. These changes may be sudden or gradual and affect the person’s behavior, emotions, and social interactions.

7. Cognitive changes

Brain tumors can cause cognitive changes, including difficulty with memory, attention, and concentration. These changes may be subtle or more pronounced and affect the person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.

Other symptoms

In addition to these common symptoms, brain tumors can cause a range of other symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Difficulty with balance or coordination
  • Difficulty with swallowing or speaking
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Increased pressure within the skull, which can cause swelling of the head or papilledema

When to see a doctor

While the exact cause of brain tumors is unknown, several factors may contribute to their development. The symptoms of a brain tumor can affect many aspects of a person’s life.

If you are experiencing symptoms of a brain tumor, seek medical attention as soon as possible. While these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, it is important to rule out a brain tumor as a possible cause. 

Your doctor may perform a neurological exam, imaging tests (such as a CT scan), or a biopsy to determine the cause of your symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can enhance outcomes and increase the chances of a successful recovery.