Diagnosis and tests for Brain Tumour

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There are over 100 types of brain tumour, so establishing the diagnosis is essential before determining the appropriate treatment and follow-up measures.

The initial diagnosis of a brain tumour is made with a brain CT or MRI scan. Depending on the result, the specialist will refer the patient to a neuro-oncologist or neurosurgeon.

A sample of the lesion must be collected via open surgery or needle biopsy to learn more details about the diagnosis.

The main tests carried out are:

Blood collection tube

General laboratory tests. To assess inflammation/infection markers and to quantify blood clotting functions, the latter are very important for surgery.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

Computed Tomography (CT) brain scan. Used to diagnose the presence of a brain lesion.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scan. This test provides the most information when studying brain tumours in detail. Besides high-definition anatomical data (structures affected by and exact location of the tumour), the technique also provides information about the areas of brain function, nerve fibres and the degree of activity/aggressiveness indirectly displayed by the tumour.

Person having a chest X-ray done

Chest X-ray. This is one of the tests performed before surgery and also serves to locate potential lung tumours that could be the cause of the tumour diagnosed in the brain.

Electrocardiogram monitor

Electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram records the heart’s electrical activity; it is also one of the preoperative tests.

Blood collection tube

Tumour markers. These are special analytical tests used to identify certain blood factors; if the blood concentration of specific markers increases then it is indicative of different types of tumour.

Other possible tests are:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

PET-CT scan. This is very useful whenever brain metastasis is suspected as it scans the whole body in search of the original tumour.

Patient undergoing a lumbar puncture

Lumbar puncture. Occasionally used to identify the presence of tumour markers in cerebrospinal fluid (liquid biopsy).

Lying person undergoing a bone densitometry test

Scintigraphy. This provides an assessment of tumour characteristics and a possible differential diagnosis in the case of infection.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

Chest-abdomen CT scan. This is used to search the entire body for any tumours that could be the original cause of the brain tumour (metastasis).

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Substantiated information by:

Josep Juan González Sanchez
Sergio García García
Verónica Mato Pin

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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