If you’re concerned you may have brain or spinal cancer, you want to know your diagnosis as soon as possible. Central Maine Healthcare understands that knowing the first step, so we strive to provide the most accurate diagnoses as quickly as possible. Our pathologists and radiologists use state-of-the-art assessments to determine the cause of your symptoms and provide the best treatment.
Screening for Brain or Spinal Cancer
Brain or spinal cancer is usually detected by the symptoms it causes, which include headaches, seizures, back pain and numbness in the limbs. While patients with these symptoms usually don’t have brain or spinal cancer, talk to your doctor promptly if you are experiencing any of them.
There are no widely recommended tests at this time that can detect brain or spinal cancer before symptoms appear. (“Screening” is the term for these types of tests.) But as with any cancer, early detection puts you at an advantage so be sure to share any and all symptoms you have with your doctor.
Diagnosis of Brain and Spinal Cancer
A number of technologies and sciences are used to help your doctor determine whether you have a tumor, whether it is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) and, if it is malignant, the type of cancer it may be.
A neurological exam may be ordered if you’re experiencing problems with your strength, reflexes, vision, coordination, hearing, or balance. Checking these areas helps your doctor understand more about what areas of your brain or spine may be affected.
Pathology is another tool used to understand diseases, including brain and spinal tumors. If your doctor suspects you may have one of these tumors, she may order pathology tests to examine the cells, tissues and/or fluids of your body. These samples are captured using the following techniques:
- Blood tests
- Resection, a technique for surgically removing areas suspected to be cancerous
- Biopsies, which involve removing cells and tissue
Any of these tests are available onsite at Central Maine Medical Center (CMMC) although some samples are sent to an outside testing lab. Your doctor can answer any questions you have about the process and will let you know when you can expect results.
Radiology uses pain-free X-rays and other high-energy radiation to produce accurate images of internal body structures, allowing radiologists to detect the presence or absence of most tumors. CMMC’s Cynthia A. Rydholm Cancer Treatment Center is staffed with experienced radiologists who use a number of radiology scans to help doctors find the cause of your symptoms, and if it’s a tumor, determine its type and best possible treatments. Radiology testing includes:
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scans
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)