Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnosis is an important stage in understanding what is happening with your child. It will involve many tests. These tests can show whether a brain tumour is causing the symptoms your child has been experiencing. If there is a tumour, these tests will also provide information about the type of tumour. They can show where the tumour is located. This information helps the treatment team choose the most effective treatment for your child.

Each meeting with your child’s doctors and other medical professionals during diagnosis is important, and can be difficult emotionally. For these reasons, bring paper and a pen and take notes to help you remember the new information you may be learning and to write down questions as you think of them. You may also bring a relative or friend to take notes for you.

What happens during medical diagnosis?

Diagnosis usually begins with a physical examination. This may be carried out by a neurologist, neurosurgeon, nurse practitioner, or medical resident. A family doctor, paediatrician, or an emergency room doctor may have already done a physical exam, but it is important for each new doctor to understand your child’s situation. The examiner will observe your child and ask questions about the symptoms as well as about your child’s past medical history. She will also conduct a neurological examination.

If the results suggest that there may be a brain tumour, additional tests will be scheduled. The next set of tests may involve brain scans or neuroimaging, which provides a picture of the brain. Your child's doctor may also decide to do electrophysiological tests to examine brain activity.

In most cases, the first doctor who will treat your child is a neurosurgeon. She will look at the results of the brain scans and physical examination and decide whether or not your child needs surgery. Another diagnostic procedure your child may need is a biopsy, which is a type of surgery in which some tumour tissue is removed and sent to the pathologist for study.

Depending on the type of tumour, your child may also have blood work. Your child may also have a lumbar puncture, which is a procedure to obtain a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from around the spine. The CSF is analyzed for tumour cells, which helps to determine the best treatment for your child.


Eric Bouffet, MD, FRCPC