Brain Tumor Diagnosis

Brain tumor diagnosis can be an involved process, given the complexity of the brain. Several brain tumor tests may be necessary to get an accurate diagnosis, including imaging. At Henry Ford, we have a team of specialized neuro-pathologists, doctors specifically trained to diagnose brain tumors.

If you are seeking a second opinion at the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center, we will review initial test results and may order additional, specialized tests.

Brain tumor symptoms

Sometimes scans done for another reason reveal a possible brain tumor. But people usually come to see us after experiencing symptoms potentially caused by a brain tumor.

The nature, timing and severity of brain tumor symptoms depend on the type of tumor, as well as on its size and location. Brain tumor signs are similar to those associated with a number of other conditions and may include:

  • Seizures or convulsions (often an early brain tumor warning sign)
  • Headaches (learn more about brain tumor headaches and what brain tumors “feel” like in our brain tumor FAQs)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty walking or balancing
  • Numbness or tingling in arms and legs
  • Altered speech, vision or hearing
  • Problems with concentration or memory
  • Personality or mood changes

image of brain

Brain Stem tumors may cause serious complications to physical abilities including issues with coordination, muscle weakness on one side of face or body, double vision and difficulty swallowing, speaking and breathing.

Cerebellum tumors may cause dizziness, issues with coordination and uncontrolled eye movements.

Frontal Lobe tumors may cause behavioral and emotional changes, impaired judgement, low motivation or inhibition and memory loss. Some patients may experience speech difficulties.

Occipital Lobe tumors may cause issues with vision loss or visual field cuts.

Parietal Lobe tumors may cause problems with spatial relationships (hand-eye coordination), difficulty speaking, understanding language, reading or writing abilities, loss of feeling in a part of the body and weakness in the arms, hands, legs or feet.

Temporal Lobe tumors may cause difficulty speaking or understanding language, short-term and long-term memory loss.

Danielle Gillespie Brain Tumor Patient
Beating Odds Together

When 20-year-old Danielle Gillespie discovered she had Glioblastoma, she and her doctors were surprised. Even more surprising? Just six weeks earlier, 28-year-old Sasha Archer had come to Henry Ford with a glioblastoma too. Now, they celebrate 10 years of survivorship!

Brain tumor diagnosis: initial evaluation

While brain tumor diagnosis and testing varies by individual, some common initial tests include:

  • Medical history: Your neurologist will ask you specific questions to gain insight into your personal and family health history.
  • Neurological exam: This series of tests is designed to assess vision, hearing, smell, touch, balance, reflexes, specific movements, and thinking and memory.
  • Brain tumor imaging: If your medical history and neurological exam indicate a possible brain tumor, one or more imaging tests may be ordered. Options include an MRI or CT scan.
  • Tests for other tumors: Some tumors initially form in the brain, while others begin as cancer elsewhere in the body and then metastasize (spread) to the brain. Additional tests may be necessary to determine the origin of the original tumor, which affects treatment recommendations.

Further brain tumor testing with latest tools

A correct diagnosis is essential for determining the most appropriate brain tumor treatment. In addition to reviewing any initial brain tumor imaging or other tests, we may order one or more of the following specialized tests:

  • Biopsy: A surgeon removes a sample of the brain tumor for analysis with a microscope.
  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG): This advanced neuroimaging technique maps brain activity with magnetic fields. Henry Ford has the only available MEG system in Michigan.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG): EEGs record the brain’s electrical activity.
  • 3-D MR spectroscopy: This tool measures biochemical changes in the brain.
  • High-field functional MRI: This specialized MRI provides a detailed picture of brain anatomy and regional activity.
  • Genetic tumor typing: Our center is one of few in the country that can analyze a tumor’s DNA and use this information to tailor specific treatments . Learn more about our brain tumor typing and brain tumor bank or about our precision medicine to treat cancer.
  • Neuropsychological assessments and speech-language evaluations: We assess how the tumor may affect your cognitive processes and behaviors. Our speech-language evaluations include Wada studies, which map memory and speech.

After your brain tumor diagnosis

Following your brain tumor diagnosis, our multidisciplinary tumor board reviews your case. This group brings together experts from multiple medical specialties to analyze imaging and other test results.

Together, our board crafts personalized treatment recommendations based on your needs and the specifics of the tumor, including its genetic makeup. Your brain tumor treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or other medications. You may also be eligible for a brain cancer clinical trial.

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