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Clinical FAQs

The meaning of the word tumor is a "lump" or a "swelling", and in medical language it is used to indicate an abnormal, uncontrolled growth in any part of the body. You may think of it as a group of cells which rapidly divide and do not recognize any rule or limit. The brain tumors are similar to the tumors of other organs. However, since the brain is the center of many critical functions, tumors arising in this organ have serious outcomes.

How is brain tumor recognized?

Many brain tumors may create complaints which force the patient to seek medical help. However, today more and more tumors are being recognized before they create complaints with the help of advanced radiological studies. These studies sometimes are performed for other reasons, and coincidentally lead to discovery of tumors. Even though the physician may find the effects of a brain tumor in the body, he/she can not feel or see them during a routine physical examination. Radiological studies like CT Scan or MRI generates images that suggest a tumor. In addition, there are some rare genetic diseases in which there is a higher possibility of developing a brain tumor. In such cases, radiological studies can be performed even in the absence of complaints. After the evaluation of the radiologist, a suspicion of a tumor is raised, and a definitive diagnosis is planned. Brain tumors are often difficult to diagnose because their symptoms, which serve as clues for the medical specialist, can be hard to pin down. As a tumor grows, it can affect other parts of the brain, producing new symptoms. The tumor may compress the normal tissues, hence causing a "mass effect". Complaints may appear gradually, and because they are often not clear-cut, there may be delays between the beginning of symptoms and the actual diagnosis.

How is a definitive diagnosis of a brain tumor made?

The most accurate, and sometimes the only way to accurately diagnose a brain tumor requires a biopsy. The surgeon performs the biopsy and the pathologist makes the final diagnosis, and can tell whether the tumor appears benign or malignant.

What is a biopsy?

The word biopsy is derived from the Greek words bio (life) and opsis (vision), and literally means seeing the live tissue. It is the process of removing a tissue from living patients for diagnostic examination. Biopsy can be done by a physician either in surgery or in an office setting. Brain biopsies are invariably performed in operating rooms.

Who is a pathologist?

Pathology is derived from the Greek words pathos, meaning suffering and logos meaning discourse or study. It is the science or study of disease. A pathologist studies the cause or nature of the diseases and identifies the changes diseases create in our body. In a hospital practically all the diagnostic tests performed with material removed from the body are evaluated or performed by pathologist. There are various branches of pathology, and the branch that specializes on brain and its diseases is neuropathology.

Who is a neuropathologist?

Neuropathologist specializes in the diseases of the brain and spinal cord (together, brain and spinal cord are known as the central nervous system = CNS), and usually is the person who makes the definitive diagnosis of brain tumors.

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