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"Could it be brain cancer?"

ZocdocAnswersCould it be brain cancer?


When I chew on something crunchy, I get a sharp pain in my brain, towards the back. It's not in my jaw, ears or temples, so its not TMJ. I do plan on seeing a doctor soon, I just want to know how worried/urgent I should be.


I am sorry to hear about your symptoms. You should speak with your primary care physician about your sharp pains, but here are some thoughts for discussion. Generally speaking, you are unlikely to have a brain tumor with the constellation of symptoms that you describe. Headaches caused by brain tumors are often dull and constant, worse at night (sometimes awakening patients), associated with nausea and vomiting, and characterized by significant weakness or loss of sensation in an isolated part of the body. The association of pain with chewing is actually strongly suggestive of TMJ. Although TMJ pain is classically described as pain around the ear that radiates to the jaw, temple, or neck, it can also manifest as pain in the back of the head (caused by trapezius muscle spasms). There are of course other possibilities. If you have significant facial pain, diagnoses such as glossopharyngeal neuralgia (stabbing pain near the tonsils or the base of the tongue, often triggered by chewing or yawning) or trigeminal neuralgia (stabbing pain with facial muscle spasms) should be considered. Other common causes of headache, including migraines, cluster headaches (usually associated with tearing or runny nose), and tension headaches (band-like constricting headache often including the back of the head) should also be ruled out. Again, I would strongly recommend that you meet with your primary care physician to discuss some of the possibilities listed above.

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