Who do I see for my brain tumor care?
See your primary care physician if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If you are diagnosed with a brain tumor, you may be referred to specialists, such as
Neuro-oncologist. A neurologist who specializes in brain tumors.
Neurosurgical Oncologist. A neurosurgeon who specializes in brain tumors.
Other members of your brain tumor care team may include
Radiation Oncologist. A doctor who use radiation to treat tumors.
Rehabilitation Specialist. A doctor who specializes in physical therapy and rehabilitation medicine to help improve neurological symptoms.
Neuropathologist. A doctor who specializes in establishing the diagnosis by analyzing tumor tissue.
Neuroradiologist. A radiologist who specializes in interpreting images of the brain.
Navigator. A specialized nurse who guides brain tumor patients through the different steps of their care.
What should I do before my clinic appointment?
It is a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment with any brain tumor specialist, because there is much to discuss but your doctor’s time with you will be limited by a need to help other patients.
Steps to Take Before you Meet the Doctor:
- At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there is anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you are experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you are taking.
- Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to absorb all the information provided during an appointment.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor. Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your doctor. List your questions from most important to least important. In addition to the questions that you have prepared to ask your doctor, do not hesitate to ask questions at any time if you are having trouble understanding something your doctor is saying.
Important Questions to Ask:
- What type of brain tumor do I have?
- Where is my brain tumor located?
- How large is my brain tumor?
- How aggressive is my brain tumor?
- Will I need additional tests?
- What are my treatment options?
- Can any treatments cure my brain tumor?
- What are the benefits and risks of each treatment?
- Is there one treatment you feel is best for me?
- What will treatment cost and will my insurance cover it?
- Are there any brochures, other printed material, or online content that you recommend?
- When should I plan for a follow-up visit?
What are some of the tests involved?
If it is suspected that you have a brain tumor, your doctor may recommend a number of tests and procedures:
Neurological Examination. A neurological exam may include, among other things, checking your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, and reflexes. Difficulty in one or more areas may provide clues about the part of your brain that could be affected by a brain tumor.
Imaging tests. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to help diagnose brain tumors. In some cases a dye may be injected through a vein in your arm before your MRI. A number of specialized MRI scans — including functional MRI, perfusion MRI, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) — may help your doctor evaluate the tumor and plan treatment. Other imaging tests may include computerized tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET). These imaging studies are painless and noninvasive.
Biopsy. A biopsy can be performed as part of an operation to remove the brain tumor, or a biopsy can be performed using a needle. A stereotactic needle biopsy may be done for brain tumors in hard-to-reach areas or very sensitive areas within your brain that might be damaged by a more extensive operation. In this procedure, your neurosurgeon drills a small hole, called a bur hole, into your skull. A thin needle is inserted through the hole. Tissue is removed using the needle, which is frequently guided by MRI. The biopsy sample is then viewed by a neuropathologist under a microscope to determine if it is a tumor. This information is helpful in guiding treatment.
>Next page: Part 3 - treatment options and coping advice
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For more information or to request an appointment with an brain tumor specialist, please call 1-800-BARROW1 (227-7691) or (602)406-6281