Research, Scientific Breakthroughs, & Caregiver Tips
How Is A Brain Tumor Diagnosed?
Doctors may take several different diagnostic steps when they suspect that a patient may have a brain tumor.
- Neurological exam. A basic neurological exam will test a patient’s reflexes, balance, coordination, strength, vision, and hearing. The results of this exam may prompt a doctor to look further for the presence of a tumor, and it may give a clue to the affected part of the brain if any.
- Imaging. Imaging technologies are non-invasive ways to get a look at brain tissue and possibly detect the presence of a tumor. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field to produce images of the brain and central nervous system. A computerized tomography (CT) scan may also be used to look for tumors. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans are less commonly used to detect brain tumors.
- Tests for other cancers. The possibility of a metastatic brain tumor may prompt a doctor to look for cancer in other parts of the body using lab tests or imaging exams.
- Biopsy. Some tumors may be unidentifiable through imaging or other non-invasive means. In these cases, doctors may require a biopsy, in which a sample of the tumor is removed and analyzed by a pathologist. The biopsy might be conducted with surgery or, if the tumor is in a particularly hard-to-reach area, using a needle guided by imaging technology.
A pathologist’s examination of the tissue sample will indicate whether the tumor is malignant or benign and will likely suggest the best course of treatment.
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