Symptoms of a brain tumour in children

Childhood brain tumours (known as 'tumors' internationally) are relatively rare. Around 500 children and young people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year. This means that most times the symptoms your child is showing will not be due to a brain tumour.

However, it is important to be aware of brain tumour symptoms, so you can go to your doctor if you are concerned.

Childhood brain tumour signs and symptoms

Symptoms of brain tumours vary from child to child. Symptoms can also depend on exactly where in the brain the tumour is and can often mimic those of other, relatively minor childhood illnesses.

The presence of a symptom does not necessarily mean that your child has a brain tumour.

Common brain tumour symptoms in children include:

  • Persistent vomiting/feelings of nausea (over a two week period)
  • Recurring headache (over a four week period, particularly on waking)
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Fits or seizures
  • Behaviour change
  • Abnormal balance/walking/co-ordination
  • Blurred/double vision
  • Abnormal head position (such as a head tilt)
  • Delayed or arrested puberty (puberty that doesn't start or starts, but doesn't progress as expected)

If your child has one or more of the above, you should take them to see a GP, explaining your worries about a brain tumour being present. If they have two or more, ask for an urgent referral.

An urgent referral means that your child will be given an appointment with a specialist who can further investigate the cause of their symptoms.

Read more about how brain tumours are diagnosed.

Tools to help you spot brain tumour symptoms in children

As a charity we run the HeadSmart early diagnosis campaign for children. HeadSmart is our award-winning, UK-wide campaign that aims to reduce the time it takes to diagnose children and young people with a brain tumour and so achieve better outcomes - saving lives and reducing long-term disability.

HeadSmart symptoms card

We have developed a number of resources that accompany the campaign, including the HeadSmart website and a symptoms card you can download.

For more information about childhood brain tumours visit our dedicated HeadSmart – be brain tumour aware website.
Please contact us if you would like to have HeadSmart cards posted to you.

Page last reviewed: 11/2015
Next review due: 11/2018

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