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If you have symptoms that suggest a brain tumor, it is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis in order to develop the right treatment plan. At the Penn Brain Tumor Center, specialists use the most advanced diagnostic tools available to visualize tumors and pinpoint their location.

brain tumor diagnosis Diagnostic Imaging for Brain Tumors

  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (metabolic scanning)
  • Perfusion MRI to determine blood volume
  • Diffusion tractography to visualize white matter tracts
  • Frameless MRI-based stereotactic biopsy
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) three-dimensional nuclear imaging

Penn offers other advanced diagnostic tools:

  • High-resolution intraoperative MRI (3T) neuronavigation for image-guided neurosurgery to identify the precise location of tumors in relation to surrounding brain fiber tracts. The surgeon develops a precise, personalized "road-map" of tumors in relation to key fiber tracts to achieve the goal of "maximal safe resection."
  • Neuromonitoring during surgery to identify and preserve cranial nerves (affecting vision, hearing, balance, facial expressions, speech and swallowing), motor mapping (preserving strength) and language mapping (preserving speech).
  • Genetic testing for brain tumors.

Grading Primary Brain Tumors

A tumor's grade is determined by looking at cells from the tumor under a microscope. Tumor grading is important because it helps your Penn treatment team determine how to best treat the tumor. Here are the different grades according to the World Health Organization:

  • Grade I. These tumors are considered to be benign and indolent (slow growing). They may be treated with surgery and there is a high probability of long-term survival.
  • Grade II. These tumors are considered to be malignant, but they grow slowly. They are less likely to spread, but they may recur after surgery or treatment.
  • Grade III. These tumors are malignant and tend to spread to other parts of the brain. They may come back as grade IV after treatment.
  • Grade IV. These are the most malignant tumors. They grow and spread most rapidly and are least likely to be cured.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, get to know your tumor type and the treatments available. The Penn Brain Tumor Center offers many new medical and surgical treatments that are leading to longer survival and better quality of life. Your treatment team will diagnose your tumor and create a personalized plan that's right for you.

Neuropsychology Assessment

Neuropsychology is an important component of the Penn Brain Tumor Center. Neuropsychologists work within the field of psychology and focus on brain-behavior relationships.

Pre- and post-surgical neuropsychological assessments provide information regarding the individual's cognitive strengths and weaknesses. This comprehensive process evaluates the patient's:

  • Memory
  • Language
  • Visual-spatial perception
  • Executive functioning
  • Emotions/personality
  • Extensive language testing helps to guide awake brain mapping as an integral part of the pre-surgical process.

Neuropsychological evaluations also address patient and family education; and recommendations for rehabilitation, disability concerns, and work/school accommodations.

Second Opinion for Brain Tumors

There are many decisions to make and many feelings to process when you've been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Many individuals seek a second opinion from Penn's neurosurgeons to help decide what the best treatment might be.

During a second opinion, a Penn neurosurgeon will review your medical history, current diagnosis and any images that have been taken. It is very important to bring all images, regardless of how long ago they were taken. This will help us determine the tumor's location and growth over time.

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