You began having headaches three weeks ago for no apparent reason and brain tumor comes to mind.
The bad news is that yes, a headache for three weeks can be caused by a brain tumor, says David Poulad, MD, a board certified neurosurgeon with IGEA Brain & Spine who practices in Union, NJ, whose special interests include the surgical treatment of brain tumors.
Dr. Poulad explains, “Headaches that are not easily relieved with over the counter medication, associated with vomiting are concerning and should be worked up.”
This symptom pairing is highly suspicious for a brain tumor. But it’s also highly suspicious for bleeding in the brain caused by head trauma.
Either way, these symptoms alongside each other should be investigated as soon as possible.
Headaches for Three Weeks Straight
Dr. Poulad says, “More commonly these persistent headaches are associated with migraine and not necessarily a brain tumor.
“Less than five percent of all brain studies (MRI or CT scan) will have a positive finding [brain tumor] in a patient with persistent headache.”
So if you’ve been having ongoing headaches for the past three weeks, even without vomiting or other symptoms, your doctor may order for you an MRI or CT scan.
Remind yourself that there’s less than a five percent chance that the scan will show a concerning mass.
Another cause of headaches for the past three weeks is a sinus infection.
This happened to my mother. She was having headaches every day for about three weeks.
She went to a headache center and did not get a diagnosis; they were not able to determine the cause.
But they also did not order any brain studies, either! My mother went to another doctor who ordered an MRI.
Do not panic if your doctor orders an imaging test and assume, “He probably thinks it’s a brain tumor.”
My mother’s MRI revealed the sinus infection which, oddly, was not causing any nasal symptoms like a congested nose; only the headaches. Antibiotics took care of the problem.
Dr. Poulad’s clinical interests involve the surgical treatment of brain and spinal cord tumors, radiosurgery, pituitary surgery, functional neurosurgery for pain and movement disorders, and minimally invasive spine surgery.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.