Brain tumour symptoms: six warning signs to look for, how long symptoms take to develop - and when to see a GP

Common symptoms of brain tumours can often be caused by other conditions, but it is important to seek advice from a GP

Brain tumours can affect people of any age and are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40.

More than 11,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year, and around half of these cases are cancerous, according to the Brain Tumour Charity UK.

The two main types of brain tumours are benign, which are non-cancerous, and malignant, which are cancerous.

Brain tumours are graded based on how fast they grow and how likely they are to grow back after treatment, with grade 1 and 2 being ‘low grade’, and grade 3 and 4 being ‘high grade’.

Tumours that are classed as low grade tend to grow slowly and are unlikely to return after treatment.

By comparison, tumours that are high grade and either start in the brain (primary tumours), or spread into the brain from elsewhere (secondary tumours), are much more likely to grow back.

Survival rates for brain tumours depend on various factors, including age, general health, the type of tumour you have, and where it is in your brain.

Getting treatment for a brain tumour as soon as possible is essential, so it is important to be able to identify the symptoms.

Symptoms of a brain tumour can vary depending on the part of the brain that is affected (Composite: Kim Mogg / NationalWorld)

What are the key symptoms of a brain tumour?

Symptoms of a brain tumour can vary depending on the part of the brain that is affected.

For some people, symptoms will develop gradually over several months or years if the tumour is slow growing, while for others symptoms can come on more quickly over weeks or days.

The six most common signs to look for, according to the NHS, include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Nausea, vomiting and drowsiness
  • Mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
  • Progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Vision or speech problems

Other symptoms may also include loss of taste or smell, difficulty with speech, and mobility and balance issues.

When should I see a GP?

If you experience any of these symptoms you should seek advice from a GP, particularly if you have a headache that feels different to headaches you usually get,or if your headaches are getting worse.

These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have a brain tumour, but you should still get checked just in case.

If your GP cannot identify a more likely cause of your symptoms, you may be referred to a neurologist for further assessment and test, such as a brain scan.

Treatments for brain tumours can include steroids to help reduce the swelling, anti-epileptic medicines for seizures, and painkillers for headaches.

Surgery is often carried out to remove brain tumours, but it is not always possible to remove all of the abnormal tissue, so radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment may also be needed.

Treatment for non-cancerous tumours is often successful and a full recovery is possible.

Survival rates are difficult to predict because brain tumours are uncommon and there are many different types, but around 15 out of every 100 people with a cancerous brain tumour will survive for 10 years or more after being diagnosed.