Being diagnosed with a brain tumour

Many people are diagnosed with a brain tumour after being taken to hospital following a seizure (fit) or other sudden symptoms.

Other people are diagnosed after going to see their GP about symptoms. If the GP suspects a brain tumour, they will refer you to a doctor who specialises in brain disorders (a neurologist) or a specialist brain surgeon (neurosurgeon).

Brain tumours are treated in specialist centres so you may have to travel to your nearest centre.

Your specialist doctor will ask you about your general health, any previous medical problems and your family history. They may do a general physical examination to check your tummy area (abdomen) and listen to your chest.

Your doctor will do a detailed test of your nervous system, called a neurological examination. They will usually:

  • ask you simple questions to check your thinking, reasoning and memory
  • ask you to walk a few steps or do repeated movements to check your balance and coordination
  • check the strength of your arms and legs by asking you to push against something
  • check your reflexes by tapping your arms and legs
  • see if you can feel pinpricks on your skin, or can tell the difference between hot and cold
  • shine a light at the back of your eye to see if there is any swelling, which can be a sign of increased pressure
  • check if you have any difficulties with your hearing.
  • Your doctor and a clinical nurse specialist will explain which other tests you need. This can be a difficult time and you will probably feel very anxious. Your nurse specialist is there to give you and your family information and support. Let them know if there is anything you don’t understand or if you have other questions.

Your doctor will decide on the most suitable tests for your situation. You can usually have them as an outpatient and go home soon after they are finished.

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