Brain Cancer Symptoms, Risk Factors, & Screening

Brain tumors or cancers often present themselves by disrupting important brain functions, including cognition, motor skills, and control of bodily tasks.

Depending on their location within the brain, malignant brain tumors may cause a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Difficulty speaking, walking, or remembering things
  • Gradual personality changes
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Weakness and fatigue


Certain genetic syndromes, such as neurofibromatosis, have been linked to the development of benign and, in some cases, malignant brain tumors. But within the general population, scientists have identified no potentially preventive risk factors for brain cancer malignancy.


Regular screening for brain tumors is not recommended. Brain tumors are typically found on imaging tests performed either because a person is having symptoms or to assess an unrelated illness or injury, such as a concussion.

State-of-the-art imaging tests, including MRI and PET/CT, are used to look for malignant brain tumors and determine if tumors are responding to treatment.

If a tumor is identified on an imaging scan, a biopsy is required to determine if the tumor is benign or malignant. In cases in which tumors are located within eloquent areas of the brain, an image-guided, minimally invasive stereotactic biopsy may be performed to safely remove the smallest amount of tissue necessary to make the diagnosis.