Brain tumor – children : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests

Symptoms & Signs

Symptoms may be subtle and only gradually become worse, or they may occur very quickly.

Headache is probably the most common symptom. Headache symptoms that may occur with brain tumors include:

  • Double vision, weakness, or numbness
  • Headache that gets worse when waking up in the morning, and then clears up within a few hours
  • Headaches that may get worse with coughing or exercise, or with a change in body position
  • Headaches that occur while sleeping and with at least one other symptom (such as vomiting or confusion)

Patients with brain tumors may have a seizure.

Sometimes the only symptoms of brain tumors are mental changes, which may include:

  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Impaired concentration
  • Increased sleep
  • Memory loss
  • Problems with reasoning

Other possible symptoms are:

  • Gradual loss of movement or feeling in an arm or leg
  • Hearing loss, with or without dizziness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Unexpected vision problem (especially if it occurs with a headache), including vision loss (usually of peripheral vision) in one or both eyes, or double vision
  • Unsteadiness and problems with balance

Diagnosis & Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. Infants may have the following physical signs:

  • Bulging fontanelles
  • Enlarged eyes
  • No red reflex in the eye
  • Positive Babinski’s reflex
  • Separated sutures

The following tests may be used to detect a brain tumor and identify its location:

  • CT-guided biopsy (may confirm the exact type of tumor)
  • CT scan of the head
  • EEG
  • Examination of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF)
  • MRI of the head


Review Date : 12/27/2009
Reviewed By : Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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