Tumors of the Central Nervous System: how are they diagnosed?

What is a brain tumor?

The brain is the largest part of the brain and is part of the central nervous system. More than 120 types of primary tumors of the Central Nervous System (CNS) are known, which can be divided mainly between:

  1. Low-grade malignant tumors
  2. High grade tumors

A brain tumor is a disease in which cells belonging to the brain components multiply in an uncontrolled manner.

Diagnosis of a brain tumor

In order to diagnose a brain tumor, imaging techniques such as the following are required:

  • Brain CT scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging

MRI with perfusion studies and MRI-spectroscopy will provide more information about the nature of the tumor and will guide us as to its degree of malignancy.

  • Positron emission tomography (PET) will help to differentiate a brain tumor from other intracranial lesions such as radionecrosis induced by radiotherapy treatment.
  • Minimally invasive biopsy techniques, such as stereotactic biopsy, will help in histological confirmation of the tumor and will inform us about the type of tumor and its degree of aggressiveness.

Symptoms of a brain tumor

Tumors of the Central Nervous System can settle in the brain as well as in the spinal cord, and depending on their location they will cause the appearance of different signs and symptoms.

The manifestations of a brain tumor are

  • Paralysis of a limb
  • Loss of speech
  • Comic crisis
  • Loss of vision
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Balance disturbances

Risk Factors

Known risk factors for a brain tumor include:

  • History of head irradiation
  • Immunosuppressive treatments
  • Deficits in the patient’s immunity, such as those produced by AIDS virus infection.
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Treatment for brain tumors

In most brain and central nervous system tumors the primary objective will be the complete removal of the tumor lesion with the least possible neurological damage to the patient.

Thanks to the information provided by the functional resonance, which will draw a “map” of the brain, the neurosurgeon can know in detail the region to be operated on and which areas should be preserved.

Once the type of intervention to be performed and its extent have been decided, instruments such as the neuronavigator will assist the surgeon to guide him, in the greatest detail, to the brain areas affected.

In many cases the intervention of a radiation oncologist will be required in order to plan the areas of the brain to be irradiated after surgery. He or she may also consider the indication of radiosurgery techniques in very specific areas of the brain, if the lesion meets the characteristics required by these techniques.

Once again, a multidisciplinary team is needed to study and plan the overall treatment of the tumor.

As for systemic treatment, drugs such as temozolomide, CCNU, vincristine and procarbazine form the basis of the therapeutic arsenal in adult CNS tumors. Other drugs, such as antiangiogenic drugs, may also be used in certain cases.