Signs & Symptoms of Brain Metastases

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MSK nurse practitioner, Alison Gilgan, examines a male patient sitting in a chair.

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we’re here for you as long as you need us. Above: Nurse practitioner Alison Gilgan meets with a patient during a follow-up visit.

The symptoms and signs of brain metastases can be hard to see at first. We often find these tumors when we are testing you for other health conditions. We also find them when we are assessing the stage of your primary cancer.  

Your symptoms usually depend on the tumor’s location and size. Possible symptoms include:   

Headaches  

A tumor makes pressure inside the skull, squeezing nearby brain tissue. This causes headaches. They are often worse in the morning and hurt less as the day goes on. 

Nausea and vomiting 

Brain metastases put pressure on the brain. This can cause nausea (feeling like throwing up) and vomiting (throwing up). 

Seizures and partial seizures 

A tumor affects the flow of electrical impulses through the brain. A seizure is sudden, uncontrolled change in your brain electrical activity. A partial seizure affects one area of your brain. 

Seizures can cause: 

  • Muscle spasms (jerking or stiffening muscles).
  • Abnormal smells or tastes (changes to how you smell or taste). 
  • Speech problems (trouble speaking).
  • Numbness and tingling. 

Problems with speech, vision, and understanding 

A tumor can affect the parts of the brain that control speech, vision, and understanding. 

Weakness and numbness  

A tumor can affect the parts of the brain that control the muscles. This can cause weakness and numbness. You may have problems with movement and other motor functions. This happens if a tumor gets in the way of the normal flow of signals from the brain to muscles.