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If a physician suspects that a patient might have brain cancer, he or she will likely order certain tests to confirm or rule out the diagnosis. This may include one or more of the following imaging or diagnostic tests:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan – A CT scan is usually the first test that is commonly ordered. During a CT scan, a rotating X-ray machine takes a series of X-rays from different angles. A computer then combines those X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of tissues inside the patient’s body, which can be used to determine whether a tumor is present. The addition of a contrast dye can further define the tumor. The CT scan can also provide information on the presence or absence of hemorrhage associated with tumor.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan – Once there is evidence of a potential tumor on CT scan, an MRI is the next imaging test to further define the tumor. An MRI uses a magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed images of tissues inside the patient’s body. One of the benefits offered by MRIs is that, unlike CT scans and X-rays, they don’t use ionizing radiation. Furthermore, MRI produces more-detailed images compared to CT scan.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan – A PET scan is often used as a screening scan for cancer.  Sometimes as part of cancer screening, cancer activity can be detected in the brain if a tumor is present. After either swallowing, inhaling or being injected with a radioactive drug, the patient will undergo a PET scan to determine whether there are any areas within his or her body with especially high levels of chemical activity, which can indicate the presence of cancer cells. 
  • Biopsy - The physician could also order a biopsy, which involves collecting and examining a small sample of cells from the suspicious area of the patient’s body. While a surgical biopsy requires the removal of bodily tissue (for example, a portion of a tumor), a liquid molecular biopsy can be accomplished by collecting a fluid sample (for example, blood, spinal fluid, saliva or urine).

Brain cancer testing at Moffitt

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of brain cancer and you’re concerned about whether you might have this malignancy, you can turn to Moffitt Cancer Center for testing and, if necessary, treatment. The specialists in our Neuro-Oncology Program are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating brain cancer, and they’ll provide you with the individualized treatment you deserve.

Medically reviewed by Arnold Etame, MD, PhD, Neuro-Oncology Program

Contact Moffitt Cancer Center today to request an appointment. You can call us at 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. Your diagnosis is our top priority, so when you reach out to us, we’ll connect you with a cancer expert as soon as possible,