A brain tumor happens when normal cells in the brain change into abnormal cells, and grow out of control. Some types grow very slowly. Others grow much faster. A tumor is not necessarily cancer (which refers to a malignant, or threatening, tumor).
As a brain tumor grows, it can spread into normal parts of the brain. It can also cause swelling in the brain. These can cause symptoms.
Often, one of the first symptoms of a brain tumor is a seizure. Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. A seizure can cause a person to:
- Pass out
- Stiffen and then have jerking movements of the arms or legs
- Lose muscle control throughout the body
Other symptoms of a brain tumor can include:
- Headache, often with nausea or vomiting
- Vision changes, such as double vision or a loss of vision
- Memory problems or having trouble thinking clearly
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Personality changes
These symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not a brain tumor. But you should let your doctor or nurse know if you have any of these symptoms.
Doctors use imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans to diagnose a brain tumor. These tests create images of your brain, and can show tumors or abnormal growths.
After an imaging test, your doctor might follow up with another test called a biopsy. During a biopsy, a doctor takes a very small sample of the brain tissue. He or she will look at the sample under a microscope to see if cancer is present.