Piedmont Oncology Focuses on Fast Brain and Spine Tumor Diagnosis

At Piedmont Brain Tumor Center, we specialize in treating primary and metastatic brain and spine tumors. The first step is to establish the right diagnosis. Piedmont Oncology is dedicated to the quick diagnosis of suspected cancer.


Brain Tumor Symptoms

Brain tumors can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Seizures 
  • Difficulty with balance or walking 
  • Headache 
  • Loss of vision to the left or right side 
  • Personality, memory or emotional changes 
  • Weakness on one side of the body

These symptoms may happen over a period of time before a brain tumor is suspected. In the case of personality or mental changes, symptoms may be clearer to family or others rather than to the patient. 

The big exception happens when someone has their first seizure as an adult. This usually results in prompt neurological exams - often in the emergency department. While seizures can happen from childhood through young adulthood, seizures in adults over 21 are usually tumor-related, and pictures of the brain — usually with MRI — should be taken quickly to study.


Pituitary and Skull Base Surgery

Disorders and tumors of the pituitary gland and skull base are challenging because of where they are found – under the brain and among important blood vessels and nerves. Treatment requires an experienced and skilled multidisciplinary medical team. Learn more about the Piedmont Center for Pituitary and Skull Base Surgery


Spinal Cord Tumor Symptoms 

The symptoms of spinal cord tumors often include: 

  • Back pain at the tumor site 
  • Leg or arm weakness 
  • Clumsiness while walking 
  • Difficulty urinating 

Usually, a combination of these symptoms may be present for months or years and is often blamed on other causes. A neurologist is usually the first doctor to suspect a spinal cord tumor. Specialists in neuro-oncology are contacted once the tumor is found in an imaging study.


Imaging for The Right Diagnosis

When a tumor or serious neurological symptoms of uncertain cause are present, a brain or spine imaging study is usually ordered by a doctor. At Piedmont, we offer the most advanced imaging, including open multi-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). By using these advanced image tests, which are accredited by the American College of Radiology, our brain and spine tumor specialists and expert radiologists at Piedmont can scan the brain from different angles to better view anything strange in the brain or the presence of brain tumors.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging uses magnetic fields to produce brain or spinal cord images. These images give very detailed pictures. The test takes about 45 minutes and involves adding a contrast agent called gadolinium to the veins. Gadolinium cannot be given to people with kidney failure or a past allergic reaction. Patients with implanted devices (e.g., cardiac pacemakers) often cannot have an MRI study.


Computed Tomography (CT)

Computed tomography uses X-rays to produce an image of the brain similar to that of an MRI but not as detailed. The scan is much faster to perform (minutes) and may be done with contrast. It is often used for patients who cannot undergo an MRI. 

CT is not particularly useful in searching for spinal cord tumors, but in patients who cannot undergo an MRI, it can be combined with another test called myelography, in which contrast is injected into the spinal fluid.


Referral to Brain Tumor Specialists 

When brain imaging or symptoms suggest the presence of a brain tumor, referral to our brain tumor neurosurgeons or neuro-oncologists is the critical next step to determine the exact type of tumor. A neurosurgeon performs a biopsy, or removal of a piece of the tumor for further testing, with a needle through a small hole in the skull or as part of a major neurosurgical procedure to figure out the tumor’s type. With advanced surgical techniques, such as computer-assisted brain or spine navigation during operations, our brain tumor specialists can use these procedures with the lowest possible risk.


Pathology Expertise

Our pathology team has the experience and ability to diagnose the exact type of cancer to create a patient’s treatment plan. The pathologist’s analysis of the tumor tissue shows the details of the tumor cells, the grade of the tumor and any genetic abnormalities. This information is critical to developing personalized treatment plans.


Get a Consultation or Second Opinion

Our brain tumor navigator is available to assist patients and caregivers with setting up a prompt consultation with one of our brain or spine tumor specialists. Our navigator can also assist providers with a seamless referral to our specialists. Call us at 404-605-2050 to inquire about this service.

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