Is my Headache due to a Brain Tumor?

In a normal scenario the body cells grow, die and become replaced by new ones. In cases of tumors however, the damaged cells do not die, but continue to live and multiply till they form a mass of abnormal cells. These masses not only interfere with bodily functions, they also create intra-cranial pressure within the skull leading to compression of the various structures within the brain and creating abnormal types of headaches in about half of the cases.

And when a headache persists and probably starts getting worse instead of going away, you may start wondering about its source. In fact headaches are one of the commonest symptoms of brain tumors – whether benign or malignant. The types of headaches also vary. They can be dull, throbbing or very sharp pains. They may radiate across the head or be confined to the center and feel like a gripping vice. And some headaches come on gradually while others last for several days. Hence it’s difficult to say which type of headache signifies a possible brain tumor.

At the same time, you should know that brain tumors aren’t very common and your headache is probably related to seasonal allergies, migraines or lack of sleep and stress. Most headaches associated with brain tumors are also complicated with nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and confusion. Such headaches often come linked with other related symptoms too including changes in vision, speech or hearing, weakness in limbs, seizures and cognitive decline along with mood changes, memory decline and other features.

These associated symptoms vary according to the location of the tumor in the brain. For example, if it’s a pituitary gland tumor it could lead to infertility and tunnel vision. In reality things aren’t that straightforward as the pressure exerted by the growing tumor could also create pressure on surrounding tissue, generating further disabilities and complications.

The best way to diagnose a brain tumor and put your worries about a complicated headache to rest is by undergoing an X-ray, MRI or CT scan of the brain. Your doctor might additionally suggest an examination of cerebrospinal fluid.

Your doctor will also ask you about the patterns of your headaches, what aggravates them and when are they more frequent. Most people with headaches due to brain tumors have headaches that start early morning but get better over the day. The headaches are also aggravated by coughing, sneezing or bending over.

If your headaches aren’t improving by avoiding stressors, eating and sleeping regularly, taking over-the-counter pain killers and are associated with feelings of unease, then maybe it’s time you visited your doctor.

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