Brain Tumor Symptoms—Identifying the Location of the Tumor

Tess Thompson

Headaches, nausea, vomiting, weakened motor and facial muscles, seizures, behavioral problems, and a decrease in cognition are some of the general and non-specific symptoms of a brain tumor. In addition to these, there are more specific symptoms that can help in identifying the location of the tumor. For example, the nerves entering the brain cross at the base of the skull; a tumor on the left side of the brain causes symptoms on the right side of the body, and the other way around.

The brain is generally divided into midbrain, forebrain, and hindbrain, with each division having various structures. Specific structures control specific body functions, and symptoms of a brain tumor depend upon the anatomical structure that is affected. Below are some locations and the specific symptoms that they cause.

1. Brain Stem - the Midbrain, Pons, Medulla Oblongata

  • Vomiting, especially on awakening.
  • Clumsy or uncoordinated gait.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Slurred or nasal speech, or a one-sided smile.
  • Double vision or restricted eye movement.
  • Head tilt, drowsiness, hearing loss and personality changes.

2. Cerebellum, Posterior Fossa

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Swollen optic nerve due to an increase in intracranial pressure.
  • Dizziness, shaking of limbs, swaying, and staggering.
  • Tilting of the head or pain in the back of the head or neck due to nerve compression.

3. Cerebral Hemispheres - Frontal, Occipital, Parietal and Temporal Lobes

  • Decrease in overall brain health.
  • Mental focus, afflicted judgment, personality changes, and problems with communication.
  • One-sided paralysis.
  • Problems with urination.
  • Difficulty understanding visual images and the written word.
  • Visual disturbances and seizures.
  • Decreased cognition.
  • Inability to recognize sounds and their source.

4. Hypothalamus

  • Problems with sleep, thirst, urination, body temperature, appetite, and blood pressure.

5. Thalamus

  • Sensory loss such as sense of touch, especially on the side opposite to the side of brain affected.
  • Incontinence.
  • Decreased intellect.

6. Optic Tract

  • Lack of proper eye movement and vision.
  • Abnormal pupil reactions.

7. Pituitary Gland

  • Inappropriate secretion of hormones.
  • Breast enlargement and/or secretions.
  • Hormonal disturbances like diabetes.
  • Headaches and vision changes.

The list is by no means comprehensive. Many focal symptoms of brain tumor are common to more than one location. Tumors in certain brain structures produce symptoms due to the intracranial pressure that the enlarged mass applies on the neighboring structures. This is known as the mass effect. Increased pressure in the brain may be due to the tumor growing in size, edema, and/or hydrocephalus.

Hydrocephalus is an abnormal condition in which the cerebrospinal fluid collects in the ventricles of the brain. Tumors in the Meninges, Pineal region, skull base, and third ventricle regions normally produce symptoms due to this intracranial pressure.

While herbs and vitamins that promote mental focus can help in better concentration, a brain tumor is not only about improving overall physiological brain health. It is difficult to diagnose a brain tumor in its early stages because some of its general symptoms resemble other diseases. People who are concerned about their health and take notice of any change that occurs in their physiological or psychological state are better placed to approach a doctor for an early diagnose of brain tumor.


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