June 8th marks the annual observance of “World Brain Tumour Day,” a significant event aimed at raising awareness about brain tumours, their symptoms, diagnosis, and management. While common symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, reduced alertness, fits, and paralysis are often associated with brain tumours, it is essential to recognize the lesser-known signs that can lead to an early diagnosis and treatment.
Here are ten lesser-known symptoms that could indicate the presence of a brain tumour:
Increase in hat and shoe size over time : A tumour in the pituitary gland can lead to the production of excess growth hormone, causing a condition known as acromegaly. One noticeable effect is the gradual enlargement of the head and feet, requiring larger hats and shoes.
Milk production from breasts (in a non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding woman) : Galactorrhea, characterized by the discharge of milk from the nipples, can be caused by a tumour in the pituitary gland that overproduces prolactin. Women experiencing this symptom may also have irregular or absent menstrual periods.
Loss of vision : Brain tumours can result in vision loss or blurred vision, depending on their size and location. Visual field loss may occur either on the sides or in one half of the visual field.
Loss of smell : Tumours originating near the olfactory nerve in the frontal lobe of the brain can cause a complete or partial loss of smell.
Impaired hearing : Tumours located near the auditory nerve in the cerebellopontine angle can lead to hearing impairment and tinnitus.
Depressive symptoms : Tumours in the frontal lobe can manifest solely as symptoms of depression. If an individual aged 50 or above presents with depression that is unresponsive to treatment, a brain tumour should be considered.
Personality changes : Brain tumours can cause personality changes, including disinhibition (socially inappropriate behaviour), agitation, and mood swings.
Rapidly progressive dementia : The presence of memory impairment and rapid deterioration of other cognitive functions over weeks to months may be indicative of an underlying cancerous brain tumour.
Disease in a body part other than the brain : Some cancers originating in different parts of the body can spread to the brain, resulting in metastases. For instance, an individual with a persistent cough, blood in their sputum, and a headache might have lung cancer that has spread to the brain. Similarly, a woman with a breast lump and disorientation could be dealing with breast cancer that has metastasized to the brain.
Asymptomatic cases : Surprisingly, some brain tumour patients may not exhibit any symptoms, particularly if the tumour is very small. In fact, approximately 7 out of 1000 individuals undergoing brain scans for other reasons such as head injuries or headaches are incidentally diagnosed with a brain tumour. In most cases, surgical intervention is unnecessary, but regular follow-up scans every six months to a year may be advised. Being familiar with these lesser-known symptoms can help individuals and healthcare professionals detect brain tumours promptly, facilitating early intervention and improved outcomes. On World Brain Tumour Day, let us raise awareness about these lesser-known signs and strive for enhanced education, research, and support for those affected by brain tumours.