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Childhood Brain Tumor Diagnosis

Early and accurate diagnosis of a childhood brain tumor can increase the chances for successful treatment.

At MD Anderson’s Children’s Cancer Hospital, our specialized medical team has the depth of experience and expertise that is vital to targeting childhood brain tumors. And we have the most advanced and accurate equipment to pinpoint the exact extent and location of your child’s tumor.

If your child has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Childhood Brain Tumor Diagnostic Tests

If your child has symptoms of a brain tumor, the doctor will examine your child carefully and ask you questions about your child’s and family’s medical history. The doctor also may do a neurological exam to test reflexes, muscle strength, vision and other functions of the brain and spine.

If anything appears abnormal, your doctor may refer your child to a neurologist or neurosurgeon, doctors who specialize in the nervous system.

One or more of the following tests may be used to find out if your child has a brain tumor and if it has spread. These tests also may be used to find out if treatment is working

Imaging tests, which may include:

  • CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
  • PET (positron emission tomography) scans
  • X-rays
  • Angiogram to examine blood vessels
  • Bone scan

Biopsy: If imaging tests show an area that may be a brain tumor, a biopsy almost always is necessary for diagnosis. In a biopsy, the doctor removes a small amount of tissue, which is then examined with a microscope. One of the following biopsy methods will be used.

Surgery: A biopsy may be done during surgery in which all or part of the brain tumor is removed. The operation is called a craniotomy. If a tumor is difficult to reach, a CT scan may be used during surgery to locate the tumor precisely. The tissue removed is examined immediately. Sometimes surgery to remove the tumor can be done during the same procedure.

Stereotactic (needle) biopsy: If a tumor is difficult to reach, a CT scan may be used for to place a hollow needle inside the tumor and remove a small amount of tissue.

Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy

Lumbar puncture or spinal tap: A small amount of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid, which is the clear liquid in and around the brain and spine) is removed with a needle and looked at with a microscope.

Blood and urine tests

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Leading-edge treatments including proton therapy, Gamma Knife radiosurgery, targeted therapies
  • Advanced surgical techniques to avoid damage to critical areas, including functional MRI and BrainSuite®
  • Range of clinical trials of innovative therapies for newly diagnosed and relapsed brain tumors
  • We see more types of cancer than any other children’s hospital in Texas
  • Family-centered care that actively involves parents in their child’s treatment
  • Comprehensive support services

Childhood Brain Tumor Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Childhood brain tumors are treated in our:

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Getting a Second Opinion at Children’s Cancer Hospital

The experts at MD Anderson’s Children’s Hospital are among the world’s top experts. We welcome the opportunity to provide second opinions for brain cancers.

If you would like to get a second opinion at MD Anderson, call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center