Can Brain Tumors Be Diagnosed with a Blood Test?
Brain Tumors are among the many types of diseases that can severely affect a person’s life as they are often notoriously harmful and even deadly if untreated in the early stages. The development of a brain tumor usually involves a cancerous growth of cells in the brain which invade surrounding tissues and prevent them from functioning normally. This may cause pressure on the tissues of the brain which then results in symptoms of nausea, balance problems, headaches, and other conditions.
Types of Brain Tumors
Brain tumors can be of various types in terms of appearance and prognosis and each of them can require a different approach to treatment. Commonly, most patients are found to be suffering from the following types of brain tumors:
1. Primary Brain Tumor
The tumor that originates within one of the brain cells is known to be a primary brain tumor. It is possible that such tumors might spread to other areas of the brain or it may also grow within its origin spot. In some rare cases, it is also possible that the tumor may prevail in the same spot without growing or spreading at all.
2. Metastatic Brain Tumor
These tumors are rather aggressive than other types of tumors as their origin can be different yet they manage to infect the brain by spreading through blood or various other factors. It is possible that these tumors may develop in the colon, lungs, breast, or other areas of the body, and treating them can be more than difficult no matter however advanced methods are used.
These tumors are known to have grown in the meninges, which is a type of protective tissue that surrounds the brain in the cranium. Although it isn’t a part of the brain per se, it may invade the brain cells and is found to be the most common type of brain tumor among the patients. It can be removed surgically to prevent its invasion of the brain which can be done only after observing its grade, which further invariably requires a biopsy test of the brain.
4. Pituitary Tumor
The structure in the brain that is responsible for controlling hormones is the pituitary gland and the development of cancerous cells in this part of the brain leads to a patient having a pituitary tumor. These tumors are usually mostly quite aggressive with only some cases having the proper chance of successful treatment. They are responsible for creating hormonal changes in a person’s body which may cause inconvenience of wide sorts but it is possible to visualize their growth through the help of hi-tech brain imaging techniques.
The brain contains various neurotransmitters composed of nerve cells and these cells are surrounded by the glial cells. The tumor that begins in the glial cells of the brain is known to be Glioma which is also one of the aggressive types of brain tumors. They can originate from the brainstem, the optic nerve, or the cerebral cortex and shall inescapably require intense and invasive methods of treatment.
Why Diagnose a Brain Tumor with a Blood Test?
Diagnosing a brain tumor is generally possible through three or four mediums. Out of them, a blood test is the least invasive procedure after the brain imaging technique whereas the remaining two methods are fairly invasive.
A blood test is possible easily, and it can help with learning the following things about a person:
- Quantify the number of red blood cells in a person.
- Check the health of the liver and kidneys.
- Chemicals and protein present in the blood.
- Diagnose certain types of brain tumors such as a pituitary tumor, pineal gland tumor, germ cell tumors.
How is a Blood Test Performed?
One is allowed to eat and drink normally as they do before their blood test unless there are special conditions that differ from the normal case which must be mentioned to the doctor beforehand.
- You are made to sit or lie down while the phlebotomist or the specialist in obtaining blood will seek the best vein in your arm to draw blood from.
- A tight band is wound around the arm and the patient is asked to flex their hand to make it easier to find the vein.
- The area of the popped vein is cleaned and using a new sterilized syringe and needle, the sample blood is then drawn out from your body into one or multiple small bottles.
- The needle is ejected from your arm after obtaining the required volume of blood and the tight band is removed too, followed by applying pressure on the pierced area by placing a cotton ball or gauze to prevent bruising or bleeding.
Alternative Brain Tumor Diagnosis Methods
The two advanced methods that are used to diagnose tumors require special doctors who are experienced and careful in their practice because these methods are invasive and dangerous. Failure to perform these methods properly may cause serious risk to the patient’s health.
1. Lumbar Puncture
This method involves extracting cerebrospinal fluid from the lower spine of a patient. A doctor carefully performs this procedure to test the fluid for infections, inflammation, and cancer cells. It is useful in detecting metastatic cancerous cells in the body but is otherwise less useful for diagnosing other types of brain cancers.
A brain tumor biopsy is performed by a trained and experienced surgeon who specializes in neurosurgery. It requires the extraction of a portion of the patient’s brain tissue after removing a section of their skull. During the procedure, the patient is under anesthesia and later the sample is tested for cancerous cells. Brain surgery to remove cancerous cells can instead be performed if previously performed brain imaging accurately depicts the exact location of the cancerous cells in the brain because a biopsy and a brain surgery are nearly equally invasive.
Can Brain Tumors be Diagnosed with a Blood Test?
A recent breakthrough developed by researchers at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is a type of liquid biopsy procedure that allows the doctors to detect and monitor gene mutations through blood samples of patients.
This type of blood test can help with the detection of common and aggressive brain tumors such as gliomas through blood plasma with nearly over 62% accuracy. It is one of the easiest, quick, and low-cost procedures capable of both detecting and monitoring the growth of some cancerous cells within the brain. The development is undergoing further research to be able to properly diagnose brain tumors with a blood test including other various types of tumors in the future.