Brain Tumors | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of brain tumors?

Each child may experience symptoms of a brain tumor differently, and symptoms vary depending on the size and location of the tumor—both in the brain and elsewhere in the central nervous system.

Brain tumors can cause pressure on the brain, causing the following symptoms:

  • headache
  • vomiting (usually in the morning)
  • nausea
  • personality changes
  • irritability
  • drowsiness
  • depression

Symptoms of brain tumors in the cerebellum, including cerebellar pilocytic astrocytoma and medulloblastoma, include:

  • vomiting (usually occurs in the morning, without nausea)
  • headache
  • uncoordinated muscle movements
  • problems walking

Brain tumors in the brainstem, such as diffuse pontine glioma and tectal glioma, can cause the following symptoms:

  • vision changes, including double vision
  • paralysis of nerves and/or muscles of the face or half of the body
  • respiratory changes
  • clumsy, uncoordinated walking 

Symptoms of brain tumors in the cerebrum, including gangliogliomaglioblastoma multiforme, and oligodendroglioma, include:

  • seizures
  • visual changes
  • slurred speech
  • paralysis or weakness on one half of the body or face
  • personality changes or impaired judgment
  • short-term memory loss
  • communication problems

Tumors in the optic pathway (eyes), such as optic nerve glioma, may cause symptoms such as:

  • visual problems
  • puberty or growth abnormalities
  • excessive urination

Symptoms of tumors in the spine (sometimes spreading from a tumor at a higher point on the spinal cord), including meningioma, may include:

  • bowel or bladder dysfunction
  • back pain
  • weakness or loss of sensation in one area of the body, depending on where in the spine the tumor is located

What causes brain tumors?

Brain tumors may develop when brain cells acquire mutations in the DNA that allow the cells to continue living after they would normally expire. It's important to discuss treatment options with your child's physician.