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Diagnosing brain tumors

  • Diagnosing a brain tumor often starts with a physical exam and a neurological exam. In a neurological exam, the doctor will ask series of questions and perform tests to check the function of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The patient’s mental status is also assessed. If a brain tumor is suspected, additional tests are ordered.

    Precision-guided diagnosis

    Accurate diagnosis and treatment of tumors relies upon precisely locating and identifying tumors within the brain and spinal canal. Allina Health has invested in sophisticated technology to ensure our physicians have the most advanced tools to accomplish this.  

    • A common procedure used to help diagnose a brain tumor is brain computed tomography, or brain CT. A CT is a painless test that uses x rays to take detailed pictures of the brain. A CT is especially helpful in diagnosing tumors near bone.
    • High-field MRI scanners are capable of producing the most accurate diagnostic images. A PET/CT scanner fuses existing technology to produce three-dimensional data sets to aid diagnosis.
    • Examination of tissue removed from the tumor during surgery or CT-guided biopsy may confirm the type of tumor.
    • Examination of the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) may show cancerous cells.

  • Source: Virginia Piper Cancer Institute and John Nasseff Neuroscience Institute
    Reviewed by: John E. Trusheim, MD, medical director of neuro-oncology, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
    First published: 06/28/2016
    Last reviewed: 06/01/2016

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