Piedmont Oncology Focuses on Rapid Brain and Spine Tumor Diagnosis

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


Brain Tumor Symptoms

Brain tumors can cause a wide range of symptoms including:

  • 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 develop over a longer period of time before a brain tumor is suspected. Especially in the case of personality or cognitive changes, symptoms may be more apparent to relatives or others, rather than to the patient.

The major exception occurs when someone has the first seizure of their life. This usually results in prompt neurological investigation, often in the emergency room.


Pituitary and Skull Base Surgery

Disorders and tumors of the pituitary gland and skull base present a unique and difficult challenge due to the location under the brain and among the critical blood vessels and nerves in that area. Treatment of these regions requires experienced and skilled multidisciplinary medical team members. Learn more about Piedmont Center for Pituitary and Skull Base Surgery.


Spinal Cord Tumor Symptoms

The symptoms of spinal cord tumors include:

  • Back pain over the site of the tumor
  • Weakness in the legs or arms
  • Clumsiness while walking and difficulty with urination. 

Usually there is a combination of these problems, and the symptoms may be present for months to years and are frequently attributed to other causes. A neurologist is usually the first doctor to suspect a spinal cord tumor. Specialists in neuro-oncology are consulted once the tumor is identified on an imaging study.


Imaging for Accurate 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 provide the most advanced imaging, including open multi-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). By using these advanced imaging techniques, accredited by the American College of Radiology, our brain and spine tumor specialists and expert radiologists at Piedmont are able to scan the brain from multiple and different angles to better view any abnormalities in the brain, or the presence of brain tumors.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging uses magnetic fields to produce an image of the brain or spinal cord. These images provide highly detailed pictures. The test takes about 45 minutes and involves intravenous administration of a contrast agent called gadolinium. Gadolinium cannot be given to people with kidney failure or a past allergic reaction. Patients with implanted devices (e.g., cardiac pacemaker) are often unable to 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. The level of detail is lower. The scan is much faster to perform (minutes) and may be done with intravenous contrast. It is often used for patients who cannot undergo an MRI.

CT is not a particularly useful type of imaging study for spinal cord tumors, but in patients who cannot undergo an MRI it can be combined with another technique 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. Determining the type of tumor is accomplished by a neurosurgeon who performs a biopsy, or removal of a piece of tumor for further evaluation, by a needle through a small hole in the skull or as part of a major neurosurgical procedure. With advanced surgical techniques, such as intra-operative computer neuro-navigation, our brain tumor specialists are able to implement these procedures with the lowest possible risk.


Pathology Expertise

Our pathology team has the experience and expertise for precise diagnosis of the exact type of cancer for treatment planning. The analysis of the tumor tissue by the pathologist shows the details of the tumor cells, the grade of the tumor and any genetic abnormalities. This information is critical to developing a personalized treatment plan.


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 our navigator.

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