How can I tell if a Headache is a Brain Tumor?
Dear Dr. Manny,
I keep getting awful headaches during the day. They hurt so much! Could it be a brain tumor? What does a brain tumor headache feel like? Are brain tumors cancer? Do they hurt?
Most headaches aren’t related to brain tumors. 90,000 people are diagnosed with brain tumors every year, so you might not be one of them. Brain tumors typically start somewhere else in the body and spread to the brain. These are known as metastatic tumors. A tumor that starts in the brain is called a primary tumor.
That being said, if you have a brain tumor, you most likely have a headache. The longer you’ve had a tumor, the more pressure it has put on the nerves in the brain.
Brain tumor headaches are not like migraines. If you wake up in the morning with a headache, it could be a brain tumor. It could also be a hangover. If your headaches last longer over time, get stronger or change altogether for the worse, then this could also be a brain tumor.
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Migraines come with nausea. Brain tumor headaches don’t, typically. If they last for days or weeks on end, then it could be a brain tumor. If they don’t respond to painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen, then it could also be a brain tumor.
People with brain tumors also suffer weight loss, blurred vision or a loss of vision, pressure in the back of the head, dizziness, inability to speak, hearing loss, weakness, or moodiness.
Not all brain tumors are cancerous, however. Some of the tumors can be benign, or harmless. These tumors are easily removed from the brain without causing significant damage. Cancer is the presence of a malignant tumor, which spreads and becomes uncontrollable. They invade tissue.
A benign tumor can turn into cancer, but it is usually controllable to some degree.
If you have a bad headache, it most likely isn’t a brain tumor. Rest, turn off the lights, drink lots of water. If the symptoms worsen or the headache won’t go away, even if it isn’t a brain tumor, make an appointment with your doctor. The best medicine for any condition is prevention.