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Diagnostics & Testing

Diagnostic imaging with high level accuracy to aid with
early detection and treatment planning

Utmost accuracy is essential when looking to detect and diagnose cancers of the brain and nervous system. Our experts in cancer and neuroscience, including neuroradiologists, use the latest neuro-imaging tools available to achieve as much detail as possible.   

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 

MRI is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of a large magnet, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI does not use ionizing radiation, as do X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans. MRI’s are especially helpful in detecting abnormal tissue that might be hidden by bone tissue.

Positron emission tomography with computed tomography (PET/CT)

The combination of these two imaging methods provides physicians with anatomical and metabolic information in a single scan. It's convenient for patients in that they need only participate in one imaging process (rather than separate PET and CT scans) and it provides a more precise picture of where biochemical activity caused by cancer is occurring in the body.

64-slice computed tomography

Unlike traditional X-rays, 64-slice computed tomography imaging enables physicians to obtain cross-sectional images of body tissues and organs with a great deal of speed and precision. It can display a combination of soft tissue, bones and blood vessels in a single image, including the fast-moving organs of the heart and lungs.

Continuous video electroencehalography (EEG)

This seizure monitoring system is used for the analysis of known seizures or diagnosis of suspected seizures and other spells of unknown origin.

Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and fiber tractography

By mapping the direction that water molecules diffuse in the brain, this technology helps to identify which direction the nerves are traveling as well. Physicians use this technology to preoperatively identify nerve fibers that may be injured by an adjacent brain tumor and nerve fibers that are at risk for injury should the tumor be removed, allowing neurosurgeons to operate more safely and effectively.

Perfusion imaging

Perfusion imaging uses contrast dye to evaluate the flow of blood through vessels in normal and abnormal areas of the brain and provides important information about the aggressiveness of tumors. It also helps predict how a tumor will respond to treatment.

Interventional radiology

Interventional radiologists use imaging, like X-rays or MRIs, to see inside your body, pinpoint where the problem is and map out how to get there without surgery. Interventional radiologists then guide catheters through pathways in the body, or through the skin, to treat disease or tumors directly at the source. While no treatment is risk-free, the risks of interventional radiology procedures are far lower than the risks of open surgery. 

Signs and symptoms

Brain tumors*

Tumors in any part of the brain may cause the pressure inside the skull (known as intracranial pressure) to rise. This can be caused by growth of the tumor itself, swelling in the brain, or blockage of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Increased pressure can lead to general symptoms such as:

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Blurred vision

  • Balance problems

  • Personality or behavior changes

  • Seizures

  • Drowsiness or even coma

Headache is a common symptom of a brain tumor, occurring in about half of patients. (Of course, most headaches are not caused by tumors.)

As many as half of people with brain tumors will have seizures at some point. The type of seizure may depend on where the tumor is. Sometimes this is the first sign of a brain tumor, but fewer than one in 10 first seizures are caused by brain tumors.

Spinal cord tumors*

Tumors in different parts of the central nervous system can cause different symptoms. But these symptoms can be caused by any disease in that particular location in the brain — they do not always mean a brain tumor is present. Brain and spinal cord tumors often cause problems with the specific functions of the region they develop in. For example:

  • Tumors in the parts of the cerebrum (the large, outer part of the brain) that control movement or sensation may cause weakness or numbness of part of the body.

  • Tumors in or near the parts of the cerebrum responsible for language may cause problems with speech or even understanding words.

  • Tumors in the front part of the cerebrum can sometimes affect thinking and personality.

  • Tumors in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia typically cause abnormal movements and an abnormal positioning of the body.

  • If the tumor is in the cerebellum, which controls coordination, a person might have trouble with walking or other everyday functions, even eating.

  • Tumors in the back part of the cerebrum, or around the pituitary gland, the optic nerve, or certain other cranial nerves can cause vision problems.

  • Tumors in or near other cranial nerves might lead to loss of hearing, balance problems, weakness of some facial muscles, or trouble swallowing.

  • Spinal cord tumors can cause numbness, weakness, or lack of coordination in the arms and/or legs, as well as bladder or bowel problems.

The brain also controls functions of some other organs, including hormone production, so brain tumors can also cause many other symptoms that aren't listed here.

Having one or more of the symptoms above does not mean that you definitely have a brain or spinal cord tumor. All of these symptoms can have other causes. Still, if you have symptoms that suggest you might have a brain or spinal cord tumor, see your doctor so that the cause can be evaluated and treated, if needed.

*Source: American Cancer Society