Tests after a brain tumour has been identified

doctor examining brain scans

You may have more tests after your diagnosis to find out:

 

  • How large is the tumour?
  • Where is the tumour?
  • What type of tumour is it?

Types of tests

  • Neurological tests: Your doctor checks your vision, hearing, alertness, muscle strength, coordination, and reflexes. Your doctor also examines your eyes to look for swelling caused by a tumour pressing on the nerve that connects the eye and the brain.
  • Scans – MRI scan / CT scan: These scans build up a picture of the tissues inside your head. You might have an injection before the scan to show up certain areas of your brain. They might be used to show where your tumour is before surgery / biopsy. 
  • Biopsy: A biopsy means removing a small piece of the tumour so that it can be examined under a microscope. A biopsy is the only sure way to find out what type of brain tumour you have and how fast it is growing (the grade). Read more about brain tumour grades.

Staging is important as it helps your medical team to plan the best treatment for you. 

How are brain biopsies done?

You will probably have a biopsy during an operation to remove all or part of your tumour. Brain surgery is a big operation, so it’s better to do everything at the same time if you’re having surgery. You may have a biopsy and then go onto have other treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

The biopsy is done under general anaesthetic. During the operation the surgeon uses a fine needle to remove a sample of the tumour through a hole drilled in your skull.

Stereotactic biopsy: This is where computers and scans guide the biopsy. You may also have a head frame fitted to help the surgeon to pinpoint exactly the right place.

You usually need to stay in hospital for a few days when you have your biopsy. Some hospitals may do the surgery as a day case, which means you do not need to stay in hospital overnight.

After the operation, a special doctor called a pathologist examines the sample in the laboratory. The tests performed on the tumour in the laboratory may take 1-2 weeks to complete. If a sample of tumour is sent for genetic profiling it will take longer for your test results to come back.

Pathology report: A doctor called a pathologist examines the sample of brain tumour. He or she will write a report on the biopsy sample. The pathology report will give your doctors more information about your tumour and its grade and help them to decide if you need further treatment. Read more about brain tumour grades.

Genetic profiling: Samples of your tumour may be sent to a special laboratory to get information on your DNA. This is called genetic or DNA profiling. It can give your doctor more detailed information about your tumour to help plan the best course of treatment for you. Your sample may need to be sent abroad for genetic profiling, so it may take longer to get your result to come back. 

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