If a physician suspects that a patient has glioblastoma, a diagnosis can usually be confirmed or ruled out based on the results of several tests. In most cases, the diagnostic process begins with a neurological exam. During this assessment, a physician will ask the patient about his or her symptoms and medical history, then test the patient’s reflexes, balance, coordination, vision, hearing, sensation and short-term memory. The physician may also perform a visual check for signs of swelling caused by pressure on the optic nerve.
A neurological exam alone is not sufficient to make a glioblastoma diagnosis, but the results will indicate whether additional testing is needed. If the results of a neurological exam suggest a potential glioblastoma diagnosis, imaging tests may then be used to produce an in-depth picture of the brain. Procedures that can be used for this purpose include:
- Angiograms – X-rays performed with the aid of contrast dye to highlight veins and arteries within the brain
- CT (computed tomography) scans – Scans that merge together multiple X-ray images taken from different angles to produce a three-dimensional view of the brain
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans – Tests that use magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed pictures of the brain
If these imaging tests reveal the presence of an abnormal growth on the brain, a biopsy (cell test) can be performed to determine if the growth is cancerous and, if so, what type of cells are present. A biopsy is required to confirm a glioblastoma diagnosis.
Patients can obtain a complete range of diagnostic services through Moffitt Cancer Center’s Neuro-Oncology Program. This program includes more than 70 medical professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of glioblastoma and other types of brain cancer and have the experience necessary to give patients the answers they deserve. A referral is not required to schedule an appointment at Moffitt; call 1-888-MOFFITT or submit a new patient registration form online.