Diagnosing Brain and Spine Tumors

The cause of most brain and spinal tumors is unknown. Our neurology teams use advanced tests to diagnose and understand your tumor.

Your doctor will complete a thorough physical exam and talk with you about your symptoms and your medical history.

Tests to diagnose and locate a brain tumor may include:

  • CT (computed tomography). X-rays and computer technology combine to form a picture of the brain.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Magnets and radio waves create detailed images of the brain and any tumors.
  • PET/CT (positron emission tomography). Images are created using a radioactive agent, to show changes in brain tissue.
  • SPECT (single photon emission computerized tomography). This imaging test shows blood flow in the brain and can help find a tumor’s location.
  • X-rays Electromagnetic energy creates images of your skull and internal tissues to check for tumors.
  • Minimally invasive stereotactic  brain biopsies. A tiny hole is made the skull. CT or MRI helps the neurosurgeon guide a needle to the tumor to remove a small tissue sample for testing.

Tests to diagnose and locate a spinal tumor include:

  • Lumbar puncture. A thin needle inserted into the space around the spinal column removes a sample of cerebrospinal fluid to measure the red and white blood cell count and check for signs of cancer.
  • CT (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Spine X-ray

The neurosurgeons, neurologists, radiation oncologists, and other professionals on your care team will review your test results and use them to recommend the best treatment options for you.


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Our cancer team is here for you. Our cancer specialists have access to nationally recognized cancer care protocols and best practices, since Premier Health is a certified member of MD Anderson Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center. Our patients benefit from advanced local care backed by the world-renowned expertise of the nation’s leading cancer center. 

Call the Premier Health cancer hotline at (844) 316-HOPE(844) 316-4673 (4673), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to connect with a Premier Health cancer navigator.