You probably suppose you haven’t consumed enough water, you slept poorly, or you have some muscle tension you’re holding onto as a result of stress when you suddenly have a severe headache.
After all, there are other factors that might contribute to headaches and migraines, including your diet and excessive internet use (guilty!). But it’s only natural to question if there might be something more serious going on when the ache begins to persist, feel terrible, or come back frequently.
Take a deep breath; even if you can never get through a teen tearjerker without witnessing someone (typically young, beautiful, and female) pass away tragically from the condition, the odds are quite good that your headache is not the result of a brain tumour.
Although a headache can occasionally be one of the signs of a brain tumour, the likelihood is that it isn’t a toomah, to quote a surprisingly attractive Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1990 film Kindergarten Cop.
How frequently does a headache indicate a brain tumour?
According to Cameron Brennan, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “headaches are quite prevalent and brain tumours are incredibly rare.” One in seven people report having a migraine each year, compared to approximately five out of 100,000 persons receiving a brain tumour diagnosis each year.
When is a headache a sign of a brain tumor?
Many people visit Starbucks or the medicine cabinet every day in search of painkillers due to tension headaches, cluster headaches, and simple yet irritating headaches brought on by coffee withdrawal or exhaustion.
In addition, the American Cancer Society estimates that your lifetime risk of developing a malignant brain or spinal cord tumour is less than 1%, headache or no headache. The majority of primary brain tumours (more than two-thirds) are not cancerous, despite the fact that you are unlikely to ever hear someone say, “Yay, I have a brain tumour.” (A primary brain tumour is one that develops in the brain; contrast this with breast cancer or lung cancer, for example, which have travelled to the brain and would have had many other symptoms prior to a headache.)
When could having a headache indicate a brain tumour?
According to neuro-oncologist Alyx Porter, M.D., an associate professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and co-chair of the Central Nervous System Disease Group, a headache needs to be very severe in order to be the telltale sign of a primary brain tumour. The only things the skull can accommodate are the brain, spinal fluid, and blood, she claims.
Additionally, the brain is not capable of sensing pain. Dr. Porter explains that since a tumour would have to become rather large before intracranial pressure could be felt: “If anything else is in there, it creates pressure [on nerves and blood vessels].
All of this is to indicate that a primary brain tumour rarely has a headache as its initial or only symptom. According to Dr. Porter, “additional neurological symptoms are considerably more typical in patients,” maybe in addition to a headache. These include, among other things, seizures, eyesight abnormalities, weakness on one side of your body, and slurred speech. Most likely, you would be aware of a problem before a severe headache occurs.
In addition, benign brain tumours often develop slowly, and although they are unpleasant, depending on how bothersome the symptoms are, they may not always require removal. According to Dr. Brennan, benign tumours are frequently entirely cured or controlled for a very long period.
Even a deadly brain tumour doesn’t always turn out as expected. “There are a wide range of prognoses, and a large range of how well people can do, for the worst of the worst the kinds of brain tumours we see,” says Dr. Brennan.
What’s the sensation of a headache brought on by a brain tumour like?
According to Dr. Brennan, it has a similar sensation to other headaches, especially migraines. He adds that because brain tumours are all about occupying space in the skull, anything that increases the pressure in the head can cause a headache that is caused by a brain tumour. “There’s not a single pattern that distinguishes a brain tumour headache from the range of normal headaches that people can get,” he says. “Sneezing, grinning, crouching—that sort of stuff.Such items can also make a common headache worse.
However, according to Dr. Porter, a headache brought on by a brain tumour is more likely to occur at night or in the early morning. However, that wouldn’t be the largest warning sign by itself; neurological problems in addition to a headache are considerably more cause for alarm.
Dr. Brennan asks a few questions, such as whether the headache has been occurring for a while, when friends or family phone him for help when they are experiencing a headache. “That suggests it is not alarming, despite the symptoms maybe being terrible—the longer it has persisted, the more probable it is to be a benign headache.”
When should a headache be treated by a doctor?
Head to the emergency room (ER) if you suddenly experience the worst headache you’ve ever had, or if it is accompanied by neck pain, nausea, a high fever, difficulty speaking, confusion, or numbness or weakness. There are many conditions that could necessitate immediate attention.
Even though it’s not urgent, why not get it checked out if you’ve never had a migraine before, if it feels different from migraines you’ve had in the past, or if it lasts for a few days and OTC painkillers don’t seem to help? To make sure everything appears to be in order, your doctor will probably need an advanced imaging test, such as a CT or an MRI, according to Dr. Porter.
you don’t have to endure the suffering. Consult your doctor or a specialist, such as a neurologist, if a headache is interfering with your daily life so they can determine what’s wrong because it’s likely not a tumour.