Doctors at the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Brain Tumor Center are part of one of the largest brain tumor centers in the world. We have expertise in diagnosing and treating all types of brain tumors, including brain and spinal cord tumors in children.
How is a brain tumor diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination of your child, examination procedures for a brain tumor may include:
- Neurological exam — your child's physician tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination, and alertness.
- Computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan) — a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI is very helpful for looking at the brain and spinal cord.
- X-ray — a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- Angiogram — a dye is used to visualize all the blood vessels in the brain with x-rays in order to detect certain types of tumors.
- Myelogram — an x-ray of the spine, similar to an angiogram, but involves injecting dye into the spinal canal.
- Lumbar puncture/spinal tap — a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing. CSF is the fluid which bathes the brain and spinal cord.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) — in nuclear medicine, a procedure that measures the metabolic activity of cells. A PET scan may show areas of cancer that may not be seen on a CT scan or an MRI scan.
Examination of a brain tumor depends mostly on the types of cells in which the tumor begins and the tumor location.