A seizure is a brief episode of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Seizures are common in people with brain tumors, and in some cases may be the first sign of a tumor.
Having a brain tumor and having surgery on the brain puts patients at higher risk for seizures. Whether a patient experiences seizures depends on the type and location of the tumor as well many factors such as dehydration, sleep deprivation, infection and alcohol use. Generally, seizures may have the following features in patients with brain tumors:
- Sudden onset
- Loss of consciousness
- Inability to speak
- Jerking or twitching of limbs
- Loss of bodily functions
- Risk of biting the tongue or mouth
- Loss of breathing (30 second periods)
- Overall short duration (2-3 minutes)
- Post-seizure effects including sleepiness, confusion, and sore, weak, or numb muscles
Surgical removal of the tumor may be enough to stop seizure activity. However, most patients will be treated with anti-seizure medications as least temporarily after surgery even if a patient has never had a seizure. Some patients may require long-term anti-seizure medication. Your neuro-oncologist will determine which medications are suitable to not only treat your brain tumor, but also its symptoms including seizures.
This content was reviewed by UCSF neuro-oncologist Nancy Ann Oberheim Bush MD, PhD.