Morning headaches

Focal morning headaches, three days in a row:  If I were a test question, I’d be dead by now.

(Unless said question was phrased less like “A patient presents with focal morning headaches” and more like “… although, she admits to drinking less water than usual.  Also, she may be in caffeine withdrawal.  Also, she has a history of believing her bug bites to be necrotizing fasciitis“)

Whatever, it’s totally a brain tumor.  But it’s anyone’s guess as to whether my Laptop Thigh (i.e. skin cancer in the making!) or my imaginary thyroid tumor will kill me first.

So after googling “morning headaches cancer” – as one does – I spent a good half hour entertaining myself with lady-health-magazine articles like “10 Signs You Will Die of Cancer In The Next 10 Minutes” But finally I got nervous enough to look it up in PubMed, and – surprise – apparently the “classic” early morning headache is uncommon as a tumor symptom.

Pub Med Song = why I can't have a roommate.

Cool.  I guess “early morning headache = brain tumor” is one of those “only reliable when you’re taking the USMLE” facts (like how every woman with a fever and a current period has TSS, and pheochromocytoma is a much more common disease than GAD + incidental HTN).  Neato.

So that would’ve been the end of it if that same damned abstract hadn’t also coyly informed me that “Unlike tension-type headaches, true brain tumor headaches were worse with bending over in 32%“.

… I’m so torn.  On one hand – science!  On the other hand – it’s all fun and games until bending over does make my headache worse – what then?  I want to be a self-aware, fake hypochondriac, not a real one who shows up to the student health center and has to complain of “an early morning headache that’s worse with bending over.”

(Doctor:  Wait, worse with bending over? Why-
Me:  Yeah, I had nothing better to do, and a Neurology paper mentioned it’s a sign in 32% of brain tumor patients.  So I tried it, and BAM!  Don’t know the sensitivity or specificity, thought I’d ask you!
Doctor: … Cooouuuld’ve matched into rads, but nooo, I had to see patients.)

Must.. resist.. curiosity.

10 thoughts on “Morning headaches

  1. Two days ago, I had the worst headache of my life that was worse with bending. I was pretty sure it was either a SAH or a brain tumor. But now it’s gone.

    Btw, I’m hosting grand rounds this week on medical training and I think your blog has been totally hilarious and spot on lately. You should submit something.

  2. Listen to Fizzy! I was going to say the same thing – submit a post, girl!

    Also, yeah. Probably brain tumor. Certainly not stress-related nocturnal bruxism.

  3. It wouldn’t be medical school without some hypochondriasis. In the last five years, I’ve had cancer in my brain, lungs, stomach, colon, and now leg – not to mention the various neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune diseases, etc.

  4. There’s probably another study out there pointing out that the other 68% of the time, people who have headaches with bending over are having sinus pain.

    That’s how I always interpret that kind of headache.

    I suppose I could have a brain tumor instead though.


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