Could Frequent Headaches Mean a Brain Tumor?
January 27, 2022
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 Herbert B. Newton, MD, medical director of the Brain Tumor Center at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center.
“Most patients with brain tumors have headaches that are typically different than their usual day to day headaches (e.g., migraine, stress, etc), with a new kind of pain, and often a new pattern,” Dr. Newton says. “In addition, the headaches will typically slowly get worse and become more persistent over time without specific treatment. Also, headaches alone without any other symptoms are less common with brain tumors – e.g., weakness, visual changes, speech difficulty, or seizures.”
If headaches are accompanied by other troubling symptoms or neurologic problems, your doctor may order a diagnostic imaging test, such as a CT or MRI scan. But these tests are not recommended for headaches alone because they will not likely find the cause.
What Causes the Pain
Almost all people have headaches during their life. The brain tissue doesn’t have pain-sensitive nerve fibers and doesn’t feel pain. But other parts of the head can be responsible for a headache including:
- A network of nerves that extends over the scalp
- Certain nerves in the face, mouth, and throat
- Muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders
- Blood vessels found along the surface and at the base of the brain
Headaches vary greatly in terms of the location and intensity of the pain, and how often they occur.
Types of Headaches
Headaches can be primary or secondary.
A primary headache means the headache itself is the main health problem. But other factors such as muscle tension or exposure to certain foods may be triggers. Other things that may help cause the headache include medicines, dehydration, or hormone changes.
A secondary headache is related to an underlying health condition. An example of this would be a headache caused by a neck injury, eye problems, or an infection in the jaw, teeth or sinus.
Headaches often have triggers, such as stress, fatigue and certain foods and drinks. But the cause of most headaches is not well understood.
Dr. Newton recommends headache sufferers see their primary care physician for help evaluating and managing headache pain. That may include prevention strategies, medications, lifestyle changes and other therapies. For some severe headache syndromes, they need referral to a neurologist or headache specialist.
The multidisciplinary team at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center leads the way in offering our patients comprehensive care with the latest surgical and non-surgical interventions to stop tumor growth and maintain brain health. Learn more about brain cancer treatment services at University Hospitals.
Tags: Brain Tumor