Seizures and Brain Tumors: Finding Answers

A seizure, which is triggered by a sudden change in the brain’s electrical activity, can range from mild to severe and result in a range of physical and behavioral reactions, from muscle twitching to a loss of consciousness. There are many medical issues which can cause seizures, including epilepsy, infection, stroke or a brain tumor.

Because an estimated 30 to 60 percent of patients with brain tumors experience seizures, neurosurgeon James Chandler, MD, co-director of the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute (NBTI), cautions people to take seizures seriously. “Anyone who suffers a seizure with no prior history should seek immediate medical attention,” he advises.

To rule out or confirm a brain tumor, a physician will examine your reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness. Typically, this is followed with a series of tests, which could include a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

While slow-growing tumors are most often associated with seizures, the location of the tumor can also determine the likelihood of a patient having a seizure. For example, the frontal, temporal and parietal lobes are more sensitive to abnormal cells (tumors) and are more likely to produce seizures if a tumor is located there.

In addition, specific categories and types of brain tumors can put a patient at greater risk of having a seizure. For example, meningiomas are the most common type of benign brain tumor, with an estimated 50 to 60 percent of meningioma patients suffering from seizures. Glioblastomas are the most common type of malignant brain tumor, with an estimated 30 percent of glioblastoma patients suffering from seizures.

NBTI is a comprehensive program that merges clinical research with medical and surgical treatment for brain and spinal cord tumor patients. The Institute offers state-of-the-art clinical care, clinical trial access and provides the resources and support necessary for patients and their families to meet the challenges of living with a brain tumor. To learn more about the NBTI visit To schedule an appointment call 855.695.NBTI (6284).


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