Symptoms of a brain tumor
The following are the most common symptoms of a brain tumor. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms vary depending on the child’s age and size and location of tumor. Many symptoms are related to an increase in pressure in or around the brain. There is no spare space in the skull for anything except the delicate tissues of the brain and its fluid. Any tumor, extra tissue, or fluid can cause pressure on the brain and result in the following symptoms:
- Increased intracranial pressure (ICP) - caused by extra tissue or fluid in the brain. Pressure may increase because one or more of the ventricles that drain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) has been blocked, causing the fluid to be trapped in the brain. Increased ICP can cause the following:
- Vomiting (usually in the morning)
- Personality changes
- Decreased cardiac and respiratory function and eventually coma if not treated
- Visual problems
- Head tilt
- Difficulty swallowing
In order to make an accurate diagnosis, our physicians will complete a medical history and physical examination of our patients and may perform numerous tests, including:
- Neurological exam - your child's physician tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination, and alertness.
- Computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI is very helpful for looking at the brain and spinal cord.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) – a type of nuclear medicine scan that measures the metabolic activity of cells. A PET scan may show areas of cancer that may not be seen on a CT scan or an MRI scan.
- Lumbar puncture/spinal tap - a special needle is placed into the lower back, into the spinal canal. This is the area around the spinal cord. A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) can be removed and sent for testing. CSF is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.
In some cases, the medical team at Phoenix Children’s may use more advanced procedures such as spectroscopy, tractography, and MRA and MRV to diagnose your child’s condition.
Once a diagnosis is made, your child’s physician will determine a specific course of treatment.