Screening and Diagnosis

We know that an accurate and reliable diagnosis is important to you and your family. We have the skill, knowledge, expertise and advanced technology to make a precise, timely diagnosis so we can begin your treatment right away.

  • Screening for Brain Tumors

    Medical experts do not recommend brain tumor screenings. However, if you have any of the following signs or symptoms, we may scan for a brain tumor after eliminating other possible causes:

    • Headaches
    • Seizures
    • Nausea
    • Blurred vision or distorted hearing
    • Fuzzy thinking
    • Changes in personality
    • Neurological deficits including speech difficulty, weakness of limbs and lack of sensation

    Read more about brain tumors and their symptoms.

  • Diagnosing Brain Tumors

    If you have symptoms that may be caused by a brain tumor, your physician will refer you to the Sentara Neuro-Oncology Center for further testing. Using our advanced imaging technology, we can diagnose most brain tumors from brain scans. Sometimes we take a biopsy (sample of tumor cells) to confirm a diagnosis.

  • Imaging the Tumor

    We use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans to diagnose most brain tumors.

    • MRI scans use magnetic fields to create an image of your brain. MRIs show the brain in great detail, and we can diagnose most tumors based on their appearance and location. We may use an injectable dye to make the brain tumor more clearly visible on your scan.
    • Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a form of MRI that creates a precise image of the neurons, pathways and finer structures of your brain right down to the cellular level. It allows us to see exactly where a tumor is in relation to healthy tissues and structures.
    • Functional MRIs (fMRI) show blood flow in your brain. This imaging helps us see what parts of your brain are active during actions such as speech or movement. An fMRI helps us identify the critical parts of your brain before surgery or radiation therapy so that we can more precisely target your treatment.
    • CT scans use X-rays to produce detailed images of your brain. CT scans are not quite as detailed as MRIs, but they take a shorter time. We may use an injectable dye to make the tumor more easily visible on these scans.
  • Tumor Biopsies

    In a biopsy, we remove part of the tumor to test the cells. One of our pathologists examines the tissue under a microscope and makes a diagnosis. We perform 2 types of biopsies:

    • A stereotactic biopsy uses a needle to take a small piece of tissue from the tumor.
    • A surgical, or open, biopsy involves one of our neurosurgeons taking a piece of tumor tissue during surgery to remove the tumor. The pathologist tests the sample and confirms the diagnosis.
  • Expertise in Brain Tumor Care

    If you have a confirmed diagnosis of a brain tumor, our highly skilled surgeons and cancer specialists offer expert care. Learn more about our treatment options for brain tumors and brain cancer.