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Symptoms of Brain Tumors and Spinal Cord Tumors

      Video: Brain Tumor Surgery on Antonia      

Signs and symptoms of brain tumors and spinal cord tumors depend on the type of tumor, its location and the overall health of your child. In general, symptoms of brain tumors include:

  • Headache, especially in the morning
  • Nausea and vomiting, especially in the morning
  • Sleepiness, lethargy
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Difficulty moving the eyes up and down or side to side, or double vision, vision changes
  • Facial weakness
  • Behavior changes, mood swings, personality changes
  • Tingling and numbness or loss of feeling
  • Hearing loss
  • Memory loss
  • Problems thinking
  • Trouble with speaking , slurred speech
  • Weakness, either generally or in a specific part of the body
  • New onset of seizures
  • Loss of developmental milestones

Babies with brain tumors also may have:

  • Rapidly increasing head size
  • Poor feeding, vomiting
  • Failure to thrive
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Loss of developmental milestones

In general, the symptoms of spinal tumors include:

  • Back pain
  • Abnormal feeling or loss of feeling, especially in the legs
  • Muscle weakness or inability to use muscles
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control (incontinence)
  • Muscle spasms

Brain Tumors and Spinal Cord Tumors Diagnosis

Your child's doctor will examine your child, looking for signs of a tumor and for the tumor's location. A number of tests can help your child's doctor determine if your child has a brain or spinal tumor. For brain tumors, these include:

  • CT (computed tomography) scan of the head
  • EEG (electroencephalogram) to find problems with electrical activity in the brain
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the head
  • Examination of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to look for cancer cells

If doctors find a tumor, they may take a sample to examine under a microscope (biopsy). This helps them identify the type of tumor.

Tests to help find and identify spinal tumors include:

  • X-ray of the spine
  • CT scan of the spine
  • MRI of the spine

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)