Is it a Brain Tumor?
There are around a hundred different types of brain tumors. Symptoms will depend on the type and location of the tumor. For some patients, a seizure may lead to a brain scan revealing a mass, while other patients may develop chronic headaches and/or progressive neurologic symptoms that, if they happened abruptly, could otherwise be confused with the warning signs of a stroke. Below are seven common brain tumor symptoms to be aware of.
- Headaches, which typically occur on a daily basis, are worse at night, and increase in activity; headaches with nausea and vomiting can be a sign of dangerously high pressure in the brain
- Weakness (loss of strength) or numbness (poor sensation) in the body or face
- Trouble expressing or understanding speech or finding words
- Personality or memory changes
- Trouble with balance or coordination
- Vision changes in one or both eyes, such as loss of vision, double vision, or difficulty looking upwards
- Change in voice, such as hoarseness, or swallowing problems
A particular type of brain tumor known as a pituitary adenoma (a tumor found on the pituitary gland) can cause vision changes as well as abnormalities of the endocrine system. Pituitary tumors interfere with the body’s endocrine system and can cause it to produce too much (excess) or too little (loss) of one hormone or another. Common problems caused by pituitary tumors include:
- Low levels of sex hormones can cause irregular menses or premature menopause in women, or loss of libido, fatigue, and erectile dysfunction in men.
- Lack of thyroid hormone can cause fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, or more severe medical issues if untreated.
- Lack of cortisol can cause electrolyte problems in the blood and shock (low blood pressure) when severe.
- Prolactin excess can cause the breasts to enlarge (in men as well as women) and produce milk which can even leak (galactorrhea).
- Cortisol excess can cause Cushing’s disease with diabetes and high blood pressure. This is a very dangerous condition.
- Growth hormone excess can cause acromegaly in adults. This results in changes in the face, hands, and feet with enlargement of the nose, forehead, and hands and feet. It can also lead to diabetes and heart problems.
- Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) can occur in rare instances from a pituitary tumor. Hyperthyroidism causes a rapid heartbeat or palpitations, fatigue, excessive hunger, irregular menses, weight loss, diarrhea, and heat intolerance.
If you develop any of the above symptoms, you should consult a doctor quickly. Early treatment is often more effective than waiting until things worsen. Do not be afraid to discuss these symptoms with your family and medical consultants. There are better treatments now for brain tumors than ever before, so don’t delay and ignore neurologic problems.