Is the smell of burnt toast a symptom of a brain tumour? Expert reveals the truth | Health | Life & Style


Many people believe smelling burnt toast is a sign of a brain tumour

In fact, smelling phantom smells is regularly linked to brain tumours, or even a symptom of a stroke – a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.

The medical term for imaginary odours is ‘phantosmia’, but can also be described as an ‘olfactory hallucination’.

Experts have sought to work out why the phenomenon occurs and what it could mean.

Adam Simon, GP and chief medical officer at, said: “There are a number of possible causes for phantosmia, and it can be easy to jump to the scariest conclusion.


The medical name for the condition is phantosmia

“However, a simple nasal or sinus infection is one of the first possibilities your doctor will check for.

“You might also be suffering from nasal polyps, which are small, usually harmless growths on the inside of your nose that can partially block your nasal passage and affect your sense of smell.”

High up in the nose are specialised cells which connect directly to the brain – which identifies the smell.

“Migraine sufferers may also experience temporary phantosmia as part of the aura that warns them of what’s to come,” Dr Simon added.

A migraine aura  is the collective name given to the many types of neurological symptoms that may occur just before or during a migraine headache.

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