Brain Cancer Diagnosis

How are brain tumors diagnosed? Dr. Fenstermaker explains.

Your doctor may conduct one or more of the following tests if a brain tumor is suspected:

  • Neurologic exam: Your vision, hearing, alertness, muscle strength, coordination, and reflexes will be checked, and your eyes will be examined for swelling that might be caused by increased pressure inside the head.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This type of scan uses an SUV-sized device, built around a powerful magnet and linked to a computer, to make detailed pictures of the interior of your head or spine. In some cases, a harmless dye, injected through a blood vessel in your arm or hand, helps highlight differences among brain tissues during the scan.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan/3-D imaging: An advanced, computer-assisted x-ray machine makes detailed pictures of the interior of your head. In some cases, a harmless dye, injected through a blood vessel in your arm or hand, helps highlight differences among brain tissues during the scan.
  • Angiogram: During a conventional x-ray, a harmless dye, injected through a blood vessel in your arm or hand, highlights the blood flow through brain tissues. If a tumor is present, the x-ray can reveal it, or the blood vessels that feed it.
  • Biopsy: Taking an actual sample of the suspect tissue is the most definitive way to diagnose a brain tumor and plan appropriate treatment. After other diagnostic techniques have confirmed the presence and site of a tumor, a neurosurgeon may perform the biopsy, as a preliminary diagnostic step before surgical treatment or during surgical treatment.
  • Stereotactic biopsy: This pre-surgery biopsy is commonly used to diagnose a tumor deep inside the brain, or in an inoperable location. With a rigid frame placed around your head for guidance, the surgeon makes a small incision in the scalp and creates a small hole in the skull. Anesthesia may be either local or general. Inserting a hollow needle through the hole and withdrawing a small tissue sample, the surgeon follows CT, MRI or iMRI scans to insure accurate placement.

The RPCI Advantage

Our groundbreaking intraoperative MRI (iMRI), the first of its kind in Western New York, produces MRI imaging in the operating room, during surgery. The iMRI captures real-time images to define tumor outlines, enabling neurosurgeons to navigate to affected areas accurately, remove diseased tissue more completely, while sparing healthy tissue.