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Brain Tumors


A brain tumor

is a mass that grows in your brain, or in an area near the brain. Examples include nerves in your skull, pituitary gland, or the membranes that cover your brain. The tumor may start in your brain or travel to your brain from another body area. There are many kinds of brain tumors. Each kind is named for where it begins and what it does in the brain. A tumor may be malignant (cancer), or benign (not cancer). It may grow quickly or slowly.

Brain Anatomy

Common signs and symptoms of a brain tumor:

Signs and symptoms will depend on the kind of tumor you have, and where it is in your brain. Brain tumors often cause problems on only one side of the body. Some tumors can cause problems on both sides. You may have any of the following:

  • New or different headaches, or headaches that become more frequent or severe
  • Speech, hearing, or memory problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Vision problems, such as blurred or double vision, or hearing loss
  • Confusion, personality changes, or seizures
  • Areas that are weak or numb in an arm or leg, or loss of balance
  • Bladder or bowel control problems

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have new problems walking or moving one side of your body.
  • You have new or worsening headaches or body swelling.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


A tumor that travels to the brain will need treatment for the original kind of cancer. For example, breast cancer that travels to the brain may respond to drugs used to treat breast cancer. You may need treatment for the tumor, or for problems caused by the tumor. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to lower your risk for seizures, or to reduce swelling. This may help relieve symptoms such as headaches. Hormone medicine may also be given if a part of the brain that produces hormones is affected. You may also need blood thinners to prevent a blood clot. A brain tumor can increase your risk for blood clots.
  • Chemotherapy is medicine to help kill cancer cells. The medicine is usually given through an IV.
  • Radiation is used to help treat brain tumors and to prevent new tumors from forming. Radiation can help you maintain your normal daily activities during treatment.
  • Surgery may be used to remove the tumor. This is done if the tumor is in an area where surgery can be done safely. During surgery, such as craniotomy, healthcare providers will open your skull and remove the tumor. Surgery is used for both malignant and benign tumors. Any brain tumor can grow into another part of the brain and destroy healthy brain tissue. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
  • Radiosurgery targets cancer cells without harming healthy brain tissue. You may need radiosurgery if you have more than one tumor or if you cannot have open surgery, such as a craniotomy.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Ask for support. A brain tumor can change the way you act, think, and feel. Your memory, concentration, and ability to learn may decline. You may act without thinking or become more emotional. Talk with family and friends about these changes and about continuing care, treatments, and home services. Go to all follow-up appointments.
  • Rest as needed. You may need more rest than usual, especially after cancer treatment.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause brain and lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, nuts, and cooked beans. Try to eat small meals if you have any nausea. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can increase your energy and help keep your immune system strong. Ask your healthcare provider how much exercises you need and which exercises are best for you.
  • Go to physical, occupational, or speech therapy as directed. A physical therapist can help you build muscle strength and coordination. An occupational therapist can help you find ways to do your daily activities more easily. A speech therapist can help you if your tumor caused problems with speaking.

For support and more information:

  • American Brain Tumor Association
    8550 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, Suite 550
    Chicago , IL 60631
    Phone: 1- 800 - 886-2282
    Web Address:

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

Your healthcare provider may suggest tests such as an MRI or PET scan every 3 months. These tests help check for new or returning tumors. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Brain Tumors (Ambulatory Care)

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