Brain Tumour Headaches: What Do They Feel Like?

Posted in , , by Echelon Health

Frequent headaches and migraines can be worrying, which is understandable. As well as being unpleasant, both can also be symptoms of a brain tumour. Although they are a symptom, it is important to be aware that they are very uncommon. This informative guide by Echelon Health will discuss brain tumour headaches in their entirety.

Some of the topics discussed include brain tumour symptoms, causes, and diagnosis. After reading this guide, you should be able to differentiate brain tumour headaches from normal headaches.

Brain tumour symptoms

A brain tumour occurs when there is a growth of abnormal cells in your brain. These cells start to grow at an abnormal rate, making them difficult to control. Brain tumours are graded based on how they grow and the likelihood of them coming back. There are two main types. These are non-cancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant).

There are several symptoms associated with brain tumours. However, please note – that if you experience some of these symptoms, this does not necessarily mean that you have a brain tumour. The symptoms vary depending on the area of the brain that is affected. Take a look at the list of symptoms below and familiarise yourself with them. Seek medical advice if you have any concerns.

  • Frequent nausea, drowsiness and vomiting
  • Regular headaches
  • Sudden vision/speech problems
  • Fits
  • Noticeable changes in behaviour
  • Progressive weakness
  • Paralysis on one side of the body

What does a brain tumour headache feel like?

Headaches are an unpleasant experience and can spark feelings of worry. The reassuring truth is that a tumour rarely causes a headache. However, if you experience a new headache with frequent changes, this could be a red flag, and you should seek medical assistance. A brain tumour headache occurs due to the tumour resting on the nerves or vessels in the brain. They differ from regular headaches as they spark several neurological issues like numbness, nausea and seizures.

Be aware that every patient’s experience with brain tumour headaches is unique to them. This is due to the size and location of their tumour. Patients often describe brain tumour headaches as “pressure-type” headaches. The headache feels like a sharp pain. They are also constant and are typically worse during the night and early in the morning.

Brain tumours and migraines

If you suffer from bad migraines or experience them often, you may worry that they are a brain tumour symptom. You may even have concerns that your migraines will cause a brain tumour. Rest assured that there is no evidence that supports this. Migraines and brain tumours are not linked. To help you differentiate the two, take a look at the symptoms of a migraine to see how they differ from a brain tumour headache:

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Throbbing pain. Typically, on one side of your head

From comparing the symptoms to a brain tumour headache, you can identify that a migraine is a lot less severe. This doesn’t mean a migraine isn’t unpleasant. They can make someone feel unwell. However, a migraine will go away after a short period and is often nothing to worry about.

What causes a brain tumour?

There is no one root cause of a brain tumour. However, some medical professionals believe that changes/defects in genes may encourage abnormal cells to grow uncontrollably. Although, more research is needed. Others believe several risk factors may increase your chance of developing a brain tumour, such as age, family history, and radiation exposure. If you suspect you have a brain tumour, your doctor will take these factors into consideration to help them decide on a diagnosis.

Brain tumour diagnosis

There are several tests that can be performed to help diagnose a brain tumour. Let’s briefly take a look at each one below:

Imaging Tests (CT and MRI) – Imaging tests that CT scans and MRI scans help doctors identify the root cause of your symptoms. These tests allow your doctor to look at the way your brain develops so they can detect any abnormalities.

  • Neurological Exam – This exam includes a range of tests such as balance, coordination, hearing, vision and much more. If you show difficulty in one area, this can help doctors identify the area of your brain that could be affected by a tumour.
  • Biopsy – A biopsy is a process of collecting and testing a sample of abnormal tissue. The biopsy helps doctors determine whether your brain tumour is cancerous and can help medical professionals better understand your treatment options.

For more information about tumour diagnosis, please read our article on the best scans to detect cancer.

MRI brain scan

Here at Echelon Health, we offer a range of screenings and services to detect malignant or benign brain tumours using a brain MRI scan. The test looks for any indications of tumours or abnormalities, including sinuses and inner ears.

An MRI scanner is a long tube that uses extremely powerful magnets to create a strong magnetic field. The water molecules in the human body react to these magnetic fields, encouraging the protons in the body to line up in the same direction. The MRI machine sends radio waves in small bursts to the area of the body that is being imaged. These waves knock the protons out of their original pattern and realign them under the magnetic field, allowing a computer to construct detailed images of that body part.

Private health assessments

Here at Echelon Health, we provide our clients with a range of individual health assessment services/packages that aim to detect and diagnose any health problems that they may have. Whether it is your head or your heart, Echelon Health can help you find the root of the problem.

We combine a comprehensive blood test – over 40 parameters including cancer markers – with the most advanced imaging technology through MRIs, CT scans and ultrasound scans to provide you with the best insight into your health.

Take a look at our Platinum health assessment package as an example. It includes a range of tests such as an MRI brain scan, CT scan, and much more. Overall, the Platinum Assessment is able to detect up to 92% and 95% of preventable causes of death among men and women! The following table summarises what each scan in the Platinum Assessment is used to detect:


Scan What it detects
Medical Questionnaire & Pre-Assessment Every Client completes a detailed Medical Questionnaire that ensures a full medical history is taken. This is reviewed by one of our Doctors who may need to speak with you to establish more detailed information relating to your health and risk factors.
Blood Tests  Used to detect various abnormalities in hormones and other indicators of cancer, vitamin deficiencies, anaemia and more.
ECG An Electrocardiogram (or ECG) is an important test that records the rhythm, rate and electrical activity of your heart. It is completely painless and takes only a few minutes.
CT Aorta Our heart scan examines the beginning of the aorta for any evidence of dilation which could be the early signs of an aneurysm
CT Heart CT Heart Scan (Calcium Score) examines your overall heart arteries for any calcium deposition, the earliest sign of atheromatous disease.
CT Coronary Angiogram This determines the exact location and severity of any atheroma.
CT Chest With this scan, we are looking for evidence of tiny nodules which could be the early signs of lung cancer.
CT Pelvis Here, we are looking for any signs of abnormalities or tumours in your kidneys, bladder and lymph glands
CT Abdomen Here, we are looking for any signs of abnormalities or tumours in your liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas and adrenal glands.
CT Virtual Colonoscopy This scan is looking for colonic polyps and early indications of possible cancer.
CT Bone Density A CT Bone Density scan is an extremely accurate method of measuring the density of your bones and diagnosing osteoporosis
EOS CT Upright Skeleton This ultra-low dose CT scan of the entire skeleton in the standing position enables us to determine whether you have any postural issues or predisposition to spinal disc problems.
MRI Brain This detailed scan of your brain looks for any indications of tumours or significant abnormalities, including of the sinuses and inner ears.
MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram This scan looks directly at the arteries in your brain to assess whether there has been any narrowing or malformations of them.
MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram This determines whether there is any narrowing of the neck arteries that supply blood to the brain.
MRI Prostate (Men) This, combined with the PSA blood test, is the most accurate means of screening for prostate cancer.
Ultrasound Thyroid An ultrasound of the thyroid is looking for evidence of nodules or tumours.
Ultrasound Testes/ Ovaries This scan is designed to look for any evidence of testicular/ovarian tumours or cysts.
Digital Mammogram (Women)  a digital mammogram is the most accurate means of visualising breast lumps or early signs of cancer.
Full Body Mole Screen skin cancer screening and mole removal
Final Consultation Your scans/assessments are reported on by some of the leading specialist radiologists in their respective fields and then reviewed with you by a senior Echelon Health Doctor.

If you would like to know more about how Echelon Health can help you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact page on our website. Our team of healthcare professionals are here to give you the detailed personal health assessments you deserve.