Brain Tumors in Children – Just Diagnosed

Just Diagnosed

Diagnosing Brain Tumors

The prognosis (in other words, the chance of survival) for children with brain tumors varies depending on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of tumor, as determined by the pathologist
  • The area of the brain involved
  • The ability to surgically remove the tumor partially or completely
  • The growth rate of the tumor
  • The age of the child at the time of diagnosis

The development of advanced imaging equipment and techniques has provided an important breakthrough in the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors. Standard tests used to diagnose these tumors include:

Both of these tests provide clear pictures of the brain or spinal cord. They assist physicians in identifying the precise location of the tumor. Additional tests often performed during the diagnostic work-up of brain tumors, including:

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan, similar to CT and MRI, but assesses the metabolic activity of the tumor
  • SPECT scan, similar to an MRI but measures the uptake of certain substances in the brain; a SPECT scan is also helpful in differentiating normal brain, tumor and scar tissue following surgery
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG), used to evaluate seizure activity

In most cases, surgery will be performed once doctors have precisely defined the location of the tumor. The purpose of surgery is to obtain a portion of the tumor for the pathologist to examine carefully under the microscope. This allows doctors to make the correct diagnosis and to plan treatment. During surgery, the surgeon will attempt to remove as much of the tumor as possible without damaging any normal adjacent brain tissue.

After the specific diagnosis is established, a variety of other tests may be necessary to determine whether the tumor has spread to any other organs in the body. Further testing will also help to evaluate the function of other body systems prior to starting any subsequent therapy. Such tests may include:

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