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When Tracey, a fitness expert and mother of two, developed pounding headaches and blurred vision at 38, she thought she had migraines, just like other members of her family.
Then, while she was in England for a training program, she collapsed and was rushed to the ER, where doctors performed a CT scan. The scan revealed a large mass on the left side of her brain.
“It was like my whole life was turned upside down,” she recalls. “My first reaction was, 'What was going to happen to my kids?' … I thought I was dying.”
Once doctors stopped the swelling in her brain, Tracey flew back to her home in Los Angeles, where she sought out neurosurgeon Dr. Gabriel Zada.
Dr. Zada reviewed an MRI that had been performed and saw a lot of swelling around the tumor. He determined that Tracy needed surgery, a procedure called a craniotomy, to remove the tumor.
Oncologist Dr. Lawrence Piro explains that Tracey had a meningioma, a tumor that forms in the lining of the brain called the meninges. He says a meningioma can grow very large, and the skull forces the tumor to grow inward, pressing on the brain and causing headaches.
“That’s the most important take-home message: You don’t go from no headaches to headaches frequently without getting checked out,” Dr. Piro says.
He warns that if you have new onset headaches and see several doctors and no one does a scan, that’s a red flag that you need to get attention.
“Migraine is the most common self-diagnosed headache,” Dr. Piro says. “And most headaches are not migraines.”
Family physician Dr. Rachael Ross describes warning signs that signal you should see a doctor:
- Experience headache for the first time
- Changes and worsens over time
- Wakes you up in the morning and it’s aching