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What Do Brain Tumor Headaches Feel Like?

November 28, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

Brain tumors happen when abnormal cells accumulate in the brain. This causes many issues and complications for various reasons. One reason is that, first and foremost, the brain is a very vital and sensitive organ, where the smallest of damage can cause even the most life-threatening of issues. Secondly, the skull is a very rigid and robust cage for the brain, so anything that grows abnormally within the skull can later prove very problematic.

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor is the growth and accumulation of abnormal cells in the brain. These cells can be either cancerous or noncancerous; in noncancerous cell growth, the tumor is benign.

Brain tumors essentially have two classifications, which are primary or secondary.

Primary Brain Tumors:

These kinds of brain tumors originate in the brain itself and are mostly benign and noncancerous. They develop either from the brain cells themselves, the matter surrounding it, or even the spinal cord. These include the membrane that surrounds the brain, the nerve cells, or even the glands.

Although primary brain tumors do have the possibility of being either cancerous or noncancerous, they are mostly benign. Even though this form of brain tumors can seem scary, they are nevertheless very rare. According to estimations and calculations made by, around 23,000 adults in the United States would be diagnosed with primary brain tumors in 2020.

This means that an average adult's chances of developing a brain tumor in the United States are less than 1%. However, brain tumors are very high leading causes of death in both men and women.

It is also estimated that around 18,000 adults, both men and women, will lose their lives due to primary brain cancer in the United States alone. Meaning, even though the chances of you developing primary brain tumors are low, in the unfortunate case that one does get the disease, chances of survival are low due to the sheer seriousness of the situation.

Gliomas and meningiomas are the most common types of primary brain tumors in adults. Gliomas is a type of cancer that is caused due to tumors developing in the glial cells, these are the cells that essentially support the structure of the central nervous system. Meningiomas are the type of tumors in the membrane that covers the brain or the spinal cord.

Secondary Brain Tumors

These are more common than their primary counterparts. However, unlike other forms of brain tumors, these do not originate from the brain or the central nervous system itself.

This form of brain tumors is a kind of after effect of preexisting tumors in the body. For example, a patient who develops lung cancer can also develop brain tumors as the cancer cells can spread from one organ to another. This is known as metastasizing. This is also very dangerous as secondary brain tumors are always cancerous as noncancerous ones do not spread from one organ to another.

Patients who are most at risk for developing secondary brain tumors have had or do have lung, breast, kidney, or skin cancer. If a patient has one, the risk of developing brain tumors is also very high.

Your risk of developing brain cancer becomes higher when exposed to radiation or certain types of chemicals in the past. Although family history is an important factor in developing this type of cancer, the risks only increase by 5 to 10%. However, suppose you have an extremely detailed family history of developing brain tumors. In that case, you should consult a doctor to evaluate your general risk level.

Symptoms of Brain Tumors

The symptoms and signs of brain tumor primarily depend on the type and the size of the abnormal tumor cell growth and whether the tumor is cancerous or noncancerous. However, there are some general signs and symptoms that one should look out for, the most common of which is headaches.

Tumor headaches occur mostly when you first wake up and get worse as the day passes. They can also be triggered by simple activities such as sneezing, coughing, or exercise, which may cause alarm for a patient. Another general symptom is waking up in the middle of sleep due to severe headache.

More severe brain tumor symptoms include vomiting, blurred vision, seizures, sudden memory loss, feelings of dizziness, loss of balance, and changes in mental capacity. People have even reported difficulty in writing ability, reading capability, muscle weakness, and even sudden motor function difficulty such as walking or talking.

Treatment for Brain Tumors

First, a patient must visit a doctor for a checkup where their personal and family medical history will be evaluated along with a series of other tests. These tests include physical and mental capacity checks, like testing muscle strength and brain function through memory checks. The doctor might then request imaging tests such as a CT Scan, which will allow the doctor to see the structure of the patient's brain better.

Further treatment will depend on whether the tumor is benign or not and its size and location. For most tumors, the treatment is to get surgery to remove the enlarged tissue. However, this is often very risky as even the least invasive surgeries can prove to be life-threatening for the patient.

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