Most people with brain tumour have non-specific symptoms; similar symptoms can be caused by many other diseases such as infection in the brain, benign growth in the brain etc. Therefore, if you have symptoms that are suggestive of brain tumour, your doctor will give you a detailed history of your health and perform a medical examination. If your symptoms are suggestive of brain tumour, further tests such as CT or MRI scan of the brain, angiogram, CSF test, hormonal blood test or EEG will be done.
History and examination: Your doctor may ask questions pertaining to:
The doctor will do tests to evaluate the functioning of your nervous system by checking your reflexes, co-ordination, muscle strength, memory and vision.
Brain CT or MRI Scan: Computed tomography scan (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI scan) are painless and non-invasive tests that take a series of detailed pictures of those parts of the body that are being examined. During CT scan of the brain, series of images of the brain are taken. These pictures provide details of the brain tissue and can show any abnormality such as brain tumour, invasion of the tumour in the surrounding brain structures, size of the ventricles, brain edema (swelling of brain tissue) etc. If required, your doctor will take CT and MRI pictures after injecting a dye (Iodine or Gadolinium contrast dyes) intravenously. The images obtained after injecting the contrast dye give better details of the brain and other structures inside the cranium (skull bone). MRI scan gives better information as compared with CT scan; it can detect tumours and other abnormalities that are very small in size and may not be seen on CT scan.
Angiogram: An angiogram shows the details of the blood vessels. For an angiogram, an iodine dye is injected through catheters that are placed into the arteries and then X-rays are taken. The blood supply to the tumour is visualized on the X-ray pictures. It can help to plan treatment such as embolisation, surgery or stereotactic radiation for vascular malformation.
Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) examination: The cerebrospinal fluid (fluid present around the brain and spinal cord that protects your brain and spinal cord) may be taken for an examination. The fluid is removed under local anaesthesia from the lower spine using a long and thin needle. It is examined for cancer cells, infections or other signs of any problem.
Hormonal Blood Tests: Hormonal analysis may be done if tumours like pituitary adenoma, craniopharyngioma, optic chiasmal or hypothalamic glioma is suspected.
Electroencephalogram (EEG): In the case of seizures, this test may be done to study the pattern of seizures.
These are some tests that may be done to confirm the diagnosis of brain tumour. If brain tumour is suspected or confirmed, you will be referred to a hospital that specialises in treating brain tumour. A biopsy will be done (where a small sample of the tissue is removed) to confirm the type and grade of your tumour.
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