Signs & Symptoms of Metastatic Brain Tumors

MSK nurse practitioner Alison Gilgan

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 metastatic brain tumors can be subtle and difficult to recognize, especially at first. We often find these tumors when testing for other conditions or when investigating the stage of your primary cancer.

What you experience usually relates to where the tumor is and its size. Possible symptoms include:  

  • Headaches, sometimes with nausea and vomiting. These are caused by a tumor creating pressure inside the skull, squeezing nearby brain tissue. They are typically worse in the morning and lessen as the day goes on.
  • Seizures and partial seizures. When a tumor affects the flow of electrical impulses through the brain, you can experience muscle spasms, abnormal smells or tastes, speech problems, or numbness and tingling.
  • Problems with speech, vision, and understanding. A tumor can affect the parts of the brain that control these abilities.
  • Physical weakness and numbness. This develops when a tumor affects the parts of the brain that control the muscles. Problems with movement and other motor functions are possible if a tumor gets in the way of the normal flow of signals from the brain to the muscles.