There are several ways to diagnose a brain tumor. Still, your doctor will begin by asking questions about your symptoms, overall health, and family health history. From there, various means of brain tumor diagnosis can include the following:
- Physical Exam – General signs of health checked by your doctor.
- Neurologic Exam – The doctor checks for alertness, muscle strength, coordination, reflexes and response to pain.
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan – An X-ray machine that takes a series of detailed pictures of the head, helping show any tumors in the brain.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – A powerful magnet that creates detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
- Positron Emission Tomography – Imaging of the brain's use of the sugar glucose in a scanner that works much like a CT scan.
- Myelogram – An X-ray of the spine.
- Biopsy – The removal of tissue to look for tumor cell.
After diagnosing the tumor, the next step is to find out the grade of cancer. Grading refers to how the cancer cells look compared to normal brain cells.
The grade of cancer helps your physician team understand:
- How quickly the tumor may grow
- How likely the tumor will spread
- How it may respond to treatment
- How likely it is to grow back after treatment
There are four grades of brain tumors:
- Grade I – The least malignant type of tumor, its cells closely resemble normal brain cells.
- Grade II – Cells do not appear normal and may grow and invade surrounding tissue.
- Grade III – Cells appear more abnormal, and the tumor extends into the tissues around it.
- Grade IV – The most malignant type of tumor, its cells are very abnormal, and it grows and spread quickly into other brain areas.