Brain Tumor — The Symptoms and Diagnosis


The signs of brain tumor depend on the size, location and type of tumor. Symptoms may appear whenever a tumor pushes a nerve or injures a particular area in the brain. They can also be caused if the brain enlarges or fluids build up in the skull.

Majority of the common signs of brain cancers are the following:

— Headaches (regularly worse at daybreak)

— Vomiting or nausea

— Problems in walking or balancing

— Changes in personality, mood or capacity to contemplate

— Memory problems

— Changes in vision, hearing or speech

— Muscle trembling or jerking

— Numbness or itchy feeling in legs or arms

If the symptoms indicate that there is indication of brain cancer, the doctor can do any of the subsequent procedures as basis of its diagnosis:

— Physical examination — the doctor examines general sign of health

— Neurologic examination — the physician checks the attentiveness, strength of muscle, reflexes, coordination and reaction to pain. The eyes are also examined to find out if there is any swelling due to the tumor pushing the nerve which attaches the brain and eyes.

— CT scan — an x-ray apparatus connected to computer which takes series of thorough pictures of a head. The patient is given an injection of special tint in order that the brain can be seen visibly in the picture. The picture may show growths or tumors inside the brain.

— MRI — a forceful magnet attached to computer which makes comprehensive pictures of sections in the body. These pictures are shown on a screen and can be printed also. Sometimes, a particular dye is inserted in order to help illustrate differences in the various tissues inside the brain.

The following tests are also considered to help diagnose brain tumor:

• Angiogram — a particular dye is injected to the bloodstream and runs in the blood vessels inside the brain in order for them to appear on x-ray. If a growth is present, it can be seen by the doctor.

• Skull x-ray — various forms of brain cancers cause calcium accumulation inside the brain or changes on the bones in the skull. Through x-ray, changes can be checked.

• Spinal tap — the physician may take a sample of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid — a fluid that fills up the spaces around the brain as well as the spinal cord). This is done with use of local anesthesia. The spinal tap can be done around thirty minutes. The patient lies flat within several hours after extraction of CSF to avoid headache. Laboratory test is done to check for the presence of cancer cells and other indications of problems.

• Myelogram — refers to the x-ray of the spine or spinal cord. Spinal tap is done by injecting a special dye in the cerebrospinal fluid. The patient tilts to let the dye combine to the fluid. This procedure assists the doctor discover cancer on the spinal cord.

• Biopsy — it is the removal of sample of tissue to search for cancer cells. The pathologist examines the cells under the microscope in order to verify abnormal cells. A biopsy may show tumor, tissue changes which might lead to tumor and other situations. This is the surest way in diagnosing brain cancer.

Evelyn Villanueva