Since you were recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, ask your doctor these questions at your next visit.
1. What type of brain tumor do I have?
2. What is the grade of my cancer?
3. What part of my brain is affected by the tumor and hat does this region of the brain do?
4. Will it be possible to surgically remove my tumor?
5. Will I need any other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy after surgery?
6. What are the possible side effects of these therapies?
7. Who might my treatment...
These include analysis of blood, electrolytes, liver function tests, and a blood coagulation profile.
If your mental status has been the major change, blood or urine tests may be done to detect drug use.
More and more, the MRI scan is being used instead of a CT scan for suspected brain tumors.
This is because MRI has a higher sensitivity for detecting the presence of, or changes within, a tumor.
Currently, however, most institutions still use the CT scan as the first diagnostic test.
Skull X-rays are not widely used any longer to diagnose brain cancer.
If your scans indicate the presence of a brain tumor, you will be referred to a cancer specialist, called an oncologist. If one is available in your area, you should be referred to a specialist in brain tumors, called a neuro-oncologist.
The next step in diagnosis is confirmation that you have a cancer. A small sample of the mass (a biopsy) is taken to identify the type of tumor.
The most widely used technique for obtaining a biopsy is surgery. The skull is opened, usually with the intention of removing the whole tumor if possible. A biopsy is then taken from the tumor.
If the surgeon is unable to remove the entire tumor, a small piece of the tumor is removed.
In some cases it is possible to collect a biopsy without opening the skull. The exact location of the tumor in the brain is determined by using a CT or MRI scan while the head is held still in a frame. A small hole is then made in the skull and a needle guided through the hole to the tumor. The needle collects the biopsy and is removed. This technique is called stereotaxis, or stereotactic biopsy.
The biopsy is examined under a microscope by a pathologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing diseases by looking at cells and tissues).
Author: Charles Davis, MD, PhD, Research Director, Professor of Emergency Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Brain Cancer Diagnosis from eMedicineHealth
Coauthor(s): Nitin Tandon, MD, Staff Physician, Department of Surgery, Division of Neurosurgery, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Editors: Brian F Chinnock, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso; Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD, Senior Pharmacy Editor, eMedicine; Jerry Balentine, DO, Professor of Emergency Medicine, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine; Medical Director, Saint Barnabas Hospital.