Brain tumor diagnosis

Older man recovering from brain tumor

​Accurate brain tumor diagnosis from expert neurosurgeons and oncologists at The Christ Hospital Health Network is essential to determine the type of tumor and the treatment required. Our team combines experience with the latest technologies to determine the type and extent of a brain tumor and develop a personalized treatment plan that best suits your condition.

Nearly always, the first step in diagnosis is a careful history and physical examination. Important points of the history include the presence of headaches, seizures or neurologic deficits and their onset and progression over time.  A neurological exam can then look for subtle signs of neurologic dysfunction and helps determine if a person may have a brain tumor and where it might be located. 

Brain tumor diagnostic testing 

Your diagnosis begins with a review of your medical history and a thorough physical exam. A neurological exam checks your vision, hearing, strength, balance, coordination, memory, reflexes and alertness.

Next, you'll have specialized diagnostic procedures that may include:

  • Computed tomography (CT) imaging scan—creates multiple detailed or three-dimensional images of bone, soft tissue, organs and blood vessels.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—uses a magnet, radio frequencies and a computer, instead of radiation, to produce detailed pictures of organs and structures inside your body. This test sometimes includes contrast, which is a special dye given intravenously to make tumors shine brightly on the MRI.

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan—uses small amounts of intravenous radioactive material, a special camera and a computer to evaluate organ and tissue functions.

  • Stereotactic brain tumor biopsy—guided by MRI or CT, a hollow needle inserted through a small hole in the skull takes a piece of tumor for diagnosis to definitively determine malignancy and type.

  • Tumor DNA analysis—knowing genetic changes in a tumor can help direct treatment.

Additional tumor diagnostic tests 

Depending on your condition and recommendations from your care team, you may have other diagnostic tests that include:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)—a noninvasive test that measures the electrical activity in the brain, called brain waves. 

  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)—examines your spinal fluid to help diagnose cancers of the brain and spinal cord.

  • If your tumor is malignant (cancerous), additional diagnostic tests may be necessary such as staging.

Get more information about brain tumor care at The Christ Hospital Health Network.