How brain tumours are diagnosed
Usually, if you have slowly developing symptoms you’ll see your GP, who will examine you.
If a brain tumour is suspected, they will refer you to a specialist doctor, either:
- a neurologist or neurosurgeon (a specialist in brain and nerve disorders), or
- an oncologist (a doctor who specialises in cancer treatment).
Sometimes people with brain tumours have a sudden seizure (fit) or sudden onset of problems associated with the position of the tumour. Then they may be taken straight to hospital, where tests are carried out to diagnose the tumour. Brain tumours are often treated in specialist centres, so you may have to travel to your nearest centre.
At the hospital
At the hospital, the doctor will ask you about your general health and any previous medical problems. You’ll then have a general physical examination. The doctor may listen to your chest and feel your tummy (abdomen) to check your general health, and you’ll have a detailed examination to test your nervous system. The examination of your nervous system may include:
- mental exercises, such as basic arithmetic and simple questions
- an eye examination using an instrument that shines a light at the back of the eye (ophthalmoscope) - this test is done to see if the optic disc at the back of your eye is swollen. This swelling is known as papilloedema and is a sign of raised pressure in your skull. Your eyesight will also be tested
- hearing tests
- facial muscle tests − smiling, grimacing etc
- checking your swallow (gag) reflex and tongue movement
- checking the strength of your arms and legs, and your reflexes
- a test of your ability to feel pinpricks on areas of skin, to tell the difference between hot and cold, and possibly to recognise the feeling and shape of familiar objects like coins
- checking your balance and coordination, for example by asking you to walk a few steps or perform repeated movements.
You may have more tests to help your doctors to plan your treatment.