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Diagnosing a glioblastoma involves several steps. Your doctor typically starts by asking about your medical history, including any previous illnesses that might have weakened your immune system or involved radiation therapy. Your doctor will also ask about your family history, your habits, and your lifestyle.
Doctors use a neurological exam to diagnose a glioblastoma. During this exam, your doctor looks for changes to your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength, and reflexes. These changes can identify which part of your brain may be affected by a tumor.
Imaging tests that take pictures of your brain also help diagnose a glioblastoma. Doctors use a variety of imaging technologies, each offering different insights to confirm the presence, location, and type of tumor that may be present.
MRI to diagnose glioblastoma Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most common imaging doctors use to diagnose glioblastomas. This test uses radio waves and magnets to create images of brain structures. A technologist or nurse may perform this scan by injecting contrast dye into your arm to illuminate the tumor’s location. Doctors use 2 main types of MRI to diagnose glioblastoma:
Functional MRI: Maps brain activity by evaluating the structures of the brain and detecting changes in blood flow
Perfusion MRI: Identifies parts of the brain with less blood flow, a potential sign of a tumor blocking the path
Tractography: Visualizes white matter tracts which carry electric signals and sensory information for the central nervous system. These images are uploaded to neurosurgical navigation system in the operating room to guide the surgeon around critical pathways as the tumor is removed.
CT scan to diagnose brain tumors Some people cannot have an MRI because the magnets interfere with implanted medical devices such as pacemakers and cochlear implants. Computed tomography (CT) scans take combine multiple X-rays and provide doctors with another way to see structures in the brain.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies that are currently recruiting participants or that may recruit participants in the near future. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but similar studies may open in the future. Ask your doctor or clinical trials coordinator about available trials that may be additional options for your care.
To learn more about the clinical trials we offer, contact Sophie Bertrand at 650-723-4467.