Different parts of the brain affect different functions in the body, such as movement, vision, and speech. Since there’s limited space within the skull, signs and symptoms of a brain tumor typically develop when abnormal tissue expands and destroys or pushes on healthy brain tissue, the tissue around the tumor swells, or the tumor interferes with the normal flow of fluid around your brain and spinal cord.
Signs and symptoms often relate to where in the brain the tumor has developed. Seizures, for example, are common in people with brain tumors, even after they’ve been treated. Depending on where your tumor is located, it can cause temporary problems in consciousness, movement, or speech.
Other symptoms can include:
- speech problems
- physical weakness, often on one side of the body
- imbalance or difficulty walking
- impaired vision or a restricted field of vision
Keep in mind that symptoms of a brain tumor often resemble those caused by other diseases. If you experience these symptoms and have concerns, speak with your doctor.
Most people diagnosed with a brain tumor do not have any known risk factors. However, certain environmental risk factors and genetic conditions have been shown to increase a person’s chances of developing one.
Known environmental risk factors include x-ray exposure to the head, which causes less than 5 percent of brain cancers, the use of drugs that suppress the immune system, and having an immune system disorder such as AIDS.
Certain rare genetic disorders also raise the risk for developing certain types of brain tumors:
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome increases the risk of glioma
- von Hippel-Lindau disease increases the risk of hemangioblastoma
- tuberous sclerosis increases the risk of astrocytoma
- neurofibromatosis type 1 increases the risk of glioma
- neurofibromatosis type 2 increases the risk of acoustic neuroma and meningioma
There are several myths about the causes of brain tumors that have insufficient research evidence to support them. For example, at this time, there is no solid data that indicates the use of cell phones — or being exposed to the non-ionizing radiation these phones emit — will cause a brain tumor. Nor is there evidence to suggest that head trauma, exposure to petrochemicals, or the consumption of aspartame leads to an increased brain tumor risk.
Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about your risk of a brain tumor.