Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, and medical and family history. A thorough neurological exam will also be done. This will include testing for muscle strength, coordination, reflexes, response to stimuli, your senses, thought processes, and alertness. The doctor may also look into your eyes to check for signs of brain swelling.
If changes in the brain are suspected because of symptoms, imaging tests may be done to look for abnormalities. Image tests can show the presence, size, and location of tumor. Options include:
CT Scan of the Head
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Other tests will help determine specific information about the tumor which will be important to make a prognosis and treatment plan. Tests may include:
A biopsy is the removal of a small piece of suspicious tissue for examination under a microscope. Biopsies can also help determine if the tumor may have a higher rate of metastasis, meaning they are more likely to spread elsewhere in the brain. In some cases, the location of the tumor makes it difficult or impossible to get a biopsy. Imaging tests may be able to determine enough information so that a biopsy is not needed.
Biopsy methods include:
Staging is a way to classify malignant primary brain tumors. It is one of many factors that help determine prognosis and treatment plan.
Tumor characteristics that are needed include:
Patient characteristics include:
The two most important factors that predict how well someone may do are the patient’s age and functional status. As a rule, younger patients do better, as do those who have very few symptoms associated with the tumor. Age and functional status are always considered when planning treatment.
Tumors are graded according to numerous features. All cancers are graded to identify the most promising treatment and to assess outcomes. The preferred grading system is by the World Health Organization (WHO). The tumor grades help predict the rate of tumor growth, its ability to spread, and its prognosis.
Astrocytoma and oligodentroglioma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 17, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Brain and spinal cord tumors in adults. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003088-pdf.pdf. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Brain and spinal cord tumors in children. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003089-pdf.pdf. Accessed August 14, 2015.
General information about adult brain tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/patient/adult-brain-treatment-pdq. Updated February 13, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Meningioma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 30, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Stages of adult brain tumors. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/brain/patient/adult-brain-treatment-pdq#section/_28. Updated February 13, 2015. Accessed August 14, 2015.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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