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NCI-CONNECT Rare Brain & Spine Tumor Network
 

Headache

Lady holding head in pain crying
Credit: iStock

What is a Headache 

Headaches are a pain or pressure in the head that does not seem to go away or that goes away and comes back. Headaches are common symptom and can be caused by a brain or spine tumor, medications used to treat side effects, or treatment. 

Headaches may involve the following signs and symptoms: 

  • Additional symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, nausea and/or vomiting, or trouble sleeping
  • Lack of interest or difficulty participating in things you used to enjoy
  • Less ability to move around or do things

Ways to Manage Headaches 

  • Keep a log of any headache and what you are doing to manage it daily using a journal. 
  • Identify causes or triggers for your headache.
    • Triggers are those things that may cause your headache or make the severity worse. A trigger may be an activity, the timing of what you eat or drink, exposures to noise or smells, other illnesses, or related to medication or changes in medications you are taking.
    • Write down or log your headaches to include what you were doing before the headache occurred and look for patterns or identify triggers.
  • Find ways to manage stress and emotions. Identify things in your life that cause stress. Consider stress management techniques such as meditation or breathing techniques. You can also seek and accept support from others.

Some self-care activities you can do to improve your pain can include diet, exercise, sleep, or medication

  • Certain foods and beverages can trigger headaches, such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Identifying these triggers can help you avoid these food or drinks. 
  • Take your medication exactly as prescribed. Do not wait until the headache pain is severe before taking medicine and keep at least one-week supply on hand. 

When to Report Headaches 

Connect with your doctor and discuss any concerns you have. Share your logged symptoms and self-care activities with them.

  • Ask your doctor when and how to report your symptoms to them. 
  • Report if your headache gets worse, if your headache is severe (>7), or your headache does not improve from your self-care activities.

Ask your doctor what you should do in the case of an emergency and when your headaches should be reported urgently. 
 

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