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Frequently Asked Questions About Brain Tumors

What is a brain tumor?

How is a brain tumor recognized?

    Many brain tumors may create complaints which force the patient to seek medical help. However, today more and more tumors are being recognized before they create complaints with the help of advanced radiological studies. These studies sometimes are performed for other reasons, and coincidentally lead to discovery of tumors. Even though the physician may find the effects of a brain tumor in the body, he/she can not feel or see them during a routine physical examination. Radiological studies like CT Scan or MRI generates images that suggest a tumor. In addition, there are some rare genetic diseases in which there is a higher possibility of developing a brain tumor. In such cases, radiological studies can be performed even in the absence of complaints. After the evaluation of the radiologist, a suspicion of a tumor is raised, and a definitive diagnosis is planned. Brain tumors are often difficult to diagnose because their symptoms, which serve as clues for the medical specialist, can be hard to pin down. As a tumor grows, it can affect other parts of the brain, producing new symptoms. The tumor may compress the normal tissues, hence causing a "mass effect". Complaints may appear gradually, and because they are often not clear-cut, there may be delays between the beginning of symptoms and the actual diagnosis.

How is a definitive diagnosis of a brain tumor made?

What is a biopsy?

What is a benign brain tumor?

What is a malignant brain tumor?

Who decides what is benign and what is malignant?

    The most definitive and diagnosis of brain tumors are done by analyzing a fragment of the tumor under the microscope by the pathologist. The surgeon removes a piece of the tumor and sends it to the pathologist. Using special tissue staining methods, the pathologist can tell whether the tumor is classified under a benign or malignant category. However, this is only the first step in a patient's management. Even if the pathologist may give a benign diagnosis, the tumor may still be deadly because of its location. The simplistic approach divides tumors into benign and malignant. However, in reality this distinction is not always clear. Like the divisions in a metric ruler, there are many intermediate forms between purely benign and purely malignant tumors. An appropriate pathology report reflects the nature of a brain tumor to the best of our current knowledge.

Who is a Pathologist?

Who is a Neuropathologist?

How many types of brain tumors are there?

What are the most common brain tumors?

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Last modified: 03/06/01