How Can One Diagnose A Brain Tumor Headache
Telling a brain tumor headache apart from other headaches is quite hard. The doctor relies on the following factors to diagnose an underlying tumor with the headache. A good headache history, based on:
Timing and Pattern of Headaches – What time of the day does one get them , when is it worst in a day, how long do they last , and how often do they occur ?
Nature of the Headache – Includes where the pain is felt , a description of the type and character of pain, if there are any associated features or symptoms that come at the same time as the headache, and what makes the headache worse , and what makes them better .
Medical Background of the Individual – Is there any relevant medical or family history that may explain why the individual is getting headaches, such as previous cancers?
Presence of Other Symptoms – Such as weakness or numbness, speech disturbances, ringing in the ears, or visual disturbances.
General Symptoms – Like changes in memory or personality. The individual may not be aware of such changes happening to oneself. Hence, the doctor may need to get some additional information from the relatives or caregivers.
To confirm or rule out a possible suspicion of brain tumor, the doctor performs:
Thorough Neurological Examination – Involving all functional aspects of the brain such as time-place-person awareness, strength, response to stimulation, balancing, coordination, and visual field examination.
What Are The Warning Signs Of A Brain Tumor
If you visit a neurologist, they may recommend getting an MRI, which uses radio waves and a powerful magnet to create detailed photos of areas inside the body. However, plenty of patients with headaches do not even need imaging, Dr. Schaff says. She can usually determine if a persons headache warrants a closer look with an MRI by considering the following criteria:
Which Tests Will Your Doctor Order
When you see your doctor about your headaches, they will ask questions about your symptoms, medical history, and any patterns or triggers related to the headache that you may have noticed. They will also perform a basic neurological exam, asking you questions to evaluate your cognitive state and seeing whether you have any trouble with balance, walking, or movement. They will likely also order some tests to figure out if you have a brain tumor, migraine, or other medical issue. Those would mainly be imaging tests such as:
Your doctor may also order blood tests to look for signs of infection or other conditions such as thyroid disorders that can cause headaches.
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Patient Stories Severe Migraines Lead To Discovery Of Brain Tumor
Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Three weeks before her wedding, life seemed busy but normal for bride-to-be Tracey Durrett, as she juggled the demands of work and wedding planning. A migraine sufferer since childhood, 44-year-old Durrett had learned to cope with frequent, severe headaches, relying on over-the-counter medicine to see her through. But thenin the midst of ordering wedding flowers and figuring out guest seatinga headache struck that she describes as “unbearable.”
I no longer feel like I’m just surviving every day. Im living every day.
“I do not think I could have gotten better care than I got at PAMF. Everybody at this clinic has been so supportive and friendly throughout my treatment, surgery and recovery. It made me confident that I would make it through this,” she says.She adds, “I no longer feel like I’m just surviving every day. I’m living every day, and I couldn’t be happier. If I could say anything to my medical team at PAMF, I’d say, ‘You guys are my heroes. You gave me back my life and gave me back to my family.'”
Treating And Managing Headaches
When possible, doctors treat the condition that causes the headache. This can be done using medication or other strategies.
These medications may prevent and treat headaches or reduce the pain:
Over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen and ibuprofen
Prescription narcotic pain relievers, like codeine
Triptan medications, like sumatriptan
Steroid medications, especially for headaches caused by cancer that spreads to the brain
Antibiotics, if an infection is causing the headache
Tell your health care team about any over-the-counter pain medication you take.
The following may help reduce the number and severity of headaches:
Get enough sleep.
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What Do Brain Tumor Headaches Feel Like
Headaches are a very common ailment that most of the time are not a sign of something more serious. A lack of sleep, loud noise, brightness, even changing weather can cause a headache that, for the most part, can be cured with some rest or over-the-counter medicine. While this is true for the vast majority of headaches, they can sometimes be a symptom of a dangerous underlying problem like a brain tumor.
“Many patients with brain tumors do experience headaches, ranging from mild to severe and unremitting,” says Lindsay Lipinski, MD, Assistant Professor of Oncology and a neurosurgeon at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. “I estimate 50 to 60% of patients with brain tumors at Roswell Park experience headaches at the time of their diagnosis. They occur most often in conjunction with another neurologic problem, like a seizure or speech problem, that led to the diagnosis.”
Could Frequent Headaches Mean A Brain Tumor
People who suffer from persistent bad headaches sometimes fear the worst, thinking they may have a brain tumor.
But in reality, that very rarely is the case.
While brain tumors can produce headaches, they usually have other symptoms as well, says Andrew Sloan, MD, director of the UH Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center.
Most patients with brain tumors have not only headaches, but neurological problems such as seizures, weakness, numbness and language or visual changes, Dr. Sloan says. Headaches alone without any other symptoms are rarely caused by brain tumors.
If headaches are accompanied by other troubling symptoms or neurologic problems, your doctor may order a diagnostic imaging test, such as a CT scan. But these tests are not recommended for headaches alone because they will not likely find the cause.
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Are Headache And Brain Tumors Related
Headache is a common symptom that may occur in otherwise healthy individuals. Typically, physicians are not concerned if the headache is occasional, mild, of short duration, and caused by identifiable factors . However, patients who experience frequent or severe headache often worry about the possibility of a more serious underlying condition such as a life-threatening brain tumor.
Though very rare in the total population of patients with recurring headaches, approximately 50% of patients who do have brain tumors have a headache as a presenting complaint, and up to 60% of patients develop headaches as the disease progresses. Unfortunately, it is often impossible to diagnose a brain tumor based upon the description of the headache itself. Some patients do provide clues when presenting with seizures or persistent neurological symptoms.
Study Identifies Association Between Migraine History Brain Tumors
According to a new study, prior migraine history is associated with brain tumors. While associated with both sexes, the risk is higher among men than women.
Migraines and headaches often occur among patients with brain tumors and are the most common complaint as the initial symptoms among these patients. Based on their high prevalence, there has been speculation as to whether headaches and migraines should be treated as risk factors for the development of brain tumors or if they should be considered the first sign of brain tumors.
According to a new study, prior migraine history is associated with brain tumors. While associated with both sexes, the risk is higher among men than women.
As brain neoplasms are most treatable in their earlier stages, our results suggest to increase awareness of the possibilities of brain tumors among patients with migraine for both early detection and patient health, wrote the researchers. Appropriate adherence to screening and regular medical follow-ups after a migraine diagnosis might assist in early recognition of key symptoms of malignant brain tumors.
These findings were a result of data coming from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, which identified 11,325 adults with a first-time brain tumor diagnosis between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2013. The study also included 11,325 unaffected matched controls.
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Constant Headaches And Brain Tumors
Even with a history of headaches, having a link between your constant headaches and brain tumors is rare. Although headaches can be a symptom of brain tumors, the headache itself is not what brings individuals in for medical care. Typically, there are other neurological issues that make a doctor aware that the headaches and other symptoms might be an indication of a bigger problem.
Symptoms of a Brain Tumor
Although a headache alone is generally not an indication of a brain tumor, as many as 60 percent of individuals with brain tumors experience headaches. Those headaches can mimic the symptoms of a migraine, can feel like a tension headache or can gradually build and then cease over a matter of hours. Unless other symptoms are experienced, a headache on its own does not cause alarm.
There are some symptoms that, along with headaches, may need to be evaluated closely, including:
- A headache pattern that is new or different
- Headaches that do not get better even with pain medication
- Muscle weakness
- Visual issues like double vision or blurred vision
- Having a headache that gets worse if a person bends over
- Being confused or having changes in personality
It is important to note that all of the above symptoms can also occur with other medical issues.
Diagnosing a Brain Tumor
Your Headache Is Worse When You Lie Flat
A headache that feels different from others youve had in the past is worth checking out, especially if it changes when you move positions. One of the things that causes headaches is a buildup of pressure, Dr. Schaff says. So if you have a brain tumor and youre lying flat all night, the pressure is going to be higher than it would be when youre sitting upright. However, she says, 99% of the time, a headache in the morning has another cause, like sleep apnea. Dr. Schaff says to look out for a headache that wakes you up headaches that build over the course of the day are usually less serious.
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Causes Of Brain Tumors
A tumor occurs when the DNA of a healthy cell changes or mutates in a way that allows the cell to grow rapidly. A brain tumor refers to a mass of abnormal cells that can develop in different areas of the brain.
Most brain tumors form without a known cause. However, certain changes in a cells DNA affect the genes that control cellular growth and division.
A person can inherit gene changes that lead to cancer. Genetic changes can also result from long-term exposure to substances that damage DNA, such as tobacco smoke and radiation.
A brain tumor may be benign or malignant .
Both types of brain tumor may increase the pressure inside the skull, causing headaches, fatigue, and even coma. Without treatment, a brain tumor can lead to long lasting brain damage.
Other Signs And Symptoms Of A Brain Tumour
Other features of headaches have been identified as red flags, which may suggest a brain tumour. These include:
- a change in previous headache pattern
- if your headaches are associated with:
- any new muscle weakness / sensory symptoms , or visual symptoms, especially on one side of the body
- a change in memory, personality, or thinking
- seizures this does not have to be a full convulsive seizure, but could be a twitching of the hand, arm or leg, or an absence
It is important to remember that all these symptoms can frequently occur in harmless headaches.
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What Steps Does The Physician Take When A Brain Tumor Is Diagnosed
It is the role of the physician to determine which patients require further testing for potential serious illness. Usually an MRI scan of the head with contrast enhancement is the most sensitive and preferable. In some cases additional studies should be ordered, such as a CT scan, or imaging of other parts of the body to determine if a primary tumor may be present. Some patients may require a lumbar puncture to evaluate the spinal fluid, which can provide a clue to the cause of headaches.
If a tumor is present, the patient will be evaluated by both a neurosurgeon and often an oncologist. The neurologist is frequently involved in management of the patient with brain cancer in terms of monitoring the neurological status and treating complications, such as brain edema, epilepsy, strokes, pain, etc.
Are Constant Headaches A Sign Of A Brain Tumor
Individuals from all walks of life can get headaches. The occasional headache, or a headache that is the result of another medical issue, like a sinus infection, are typically not a concern. Many sufferers of reoccurring or continual headaches wonder if there is a link between their headaches and brain tumors.
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What Is A Brain Tumor Headache
Headache is the most common symptom of tumors in the brain. But not all headaches are due to a brain tumor. In the majority of individuals, this headache is typically different from other types of headaches, and often they suffer from additional symptoms in other parts of the body. From the type and pattern of pain and other symptoms, doctors can decide whether to screen the patient for a brain tumor or not.
How Do I Cope With A Brain Tumour Headache
Below are some suggestions to help manage and treat headache pain that people with brain tumours can experience:
- take the medication prescribed by your doctor
- tell your doctor straight away if the medication stops working or becomes less effective
- keep a headache diary
Symptoms can change over time. Be sure to tell any your doctor or nurse as soon as possible about any new symptoms or changes in existing symptoms.
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What Do Headaches Caused By Brain Tumors Feel Like
Every patient’s pain experience is unique, but headaches associated with brain tumors tend to be constant and are worse at night or in the early morning. They are often described as dull, “pressure-type” headaches, though some patients also experience sharp or “stabbing” pain. They can be localized to a specific area or generalized. They can be made worse with coughing, sneezing or straining. A headache caused by a tumor may respond to over-the-counter medications early in treatment but may become more resistant to medication over time.
The brain itself does not have any pain receptors, but there are several mechanisms that explain why brain tumors cause headaches. The most basic is that a tumor can raise your intracranial pressure and cause stretching of the durathe covering of the brain and spinal cord. This can be painful, because the dura has sensory nerve endings.
“The skull is basically a sphere with a set amount of tissue inside it. Adding more tissue raises the pressure inside the sphere because the skull cannot expand to accommodate it, says Dr. Lipinski.
Also, tumors sometimes can occur in locations that block the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluidthe fluid created in the brain that coats and cushions the brain and spinal cord. The increased fluid can also increase the intracranial pressure, says Dr. Lipinski.
When Should You See A Doctor
You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you experience a ânewâ or different headache and these symptoms:
- A strong headache that comes on suddenly
- Headaches with other symptoms, such as vision problems or weakness in the limbs
- Symptoms that get worse and negatively affect your daily life
- Headaches that last for more than 72 hours, with less than 4 hours of no pain
- Uncontrollable vomiting
These signs may not be an indication of a brain tumor, but another disorder — such as migraine. Your doctor can plan treatment that can help your symptoms.
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Can Migraines Cause Brain Tumors
Can a Migraine Cause a Brain Tumor? If you get bad migraines or you have them often, you may worry that if you dont already have a brain tumor, the migraines might cause one. But research can help put your mind at ease. There is no evidence migraines cause brain tumors.
What is Lewy body dementia symptoms?
Movement problems and Lewy body dementia
- Muscle rigidity or stiffness.
- Shuffling walk, slow movement, or frozen stance.
- Tremor or shaking, most commonly at rest.
- Balance problems and repeated falls.
- Stooped posture.
- Smaller handwriting than was usual for the person.
- Reduced facial expression.
When To See A Gp
See a GP if you have these types of symptoms, particularly if you have a headache that feels different from the type of headache you usually get, or if headaches are getting worse.
You may not have a brain tumour, but these types of symptoms should be checked.
If the GP cannot identify a more likely cause of your symptoms, they may refer you to a doctor who specialises in the brain and nervous system for further assessment and tests, such as a brain scan.
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What Can Cause A Brain Tumor Headache
Here, the underlying tumor is the sole cause of headaches. According to the International Headache Society, there are two particular types of headaches associated with brain tumors. They are:
Type 1 – Headache caused directly by the tumor itself. In the beginning, the pain will be felt only in a single area of the head . But the headaches become progressively more severe as the tumor grows. Some individuals describe the pain as worse in the morning, and while coughing or straining physically. This type of headache probably gets better when the tumor is surgically removed or when its size goes down with treatment.
Type 2 – Headache caused by raised intracranial pressure, which is a complication of the underlying tumor. This is the type of headache doctors normally come across with brain tumor patients. Such a headache is usually felt all over the head , and it is often worse in the mornings. The pain comes and goes every once in a while and progressively worsens as the size of the tumor increases. One may suffer nausea and vomiting as well. Headaches typically improve following surgical removal or size reduction of the tumor.