A brain MRI scan is often a first step in diagnosing a brain tumor. The MRI is done to find out if a brain tumor is present. An MRI can also be used to guide and monitor treatment of the tumor.
MRI can be used for:
- To determine if cancer has spread to the brain.
- To look for brain tumors in children.
- To look for signs of injury in the brain.
- To show blood flow in the brain.
- To look for tumors in some areas of the brain that are not visible on a CT scan.
The type of MRI used depends on the location of the tumor.
- Conventional MRI: This is the standard type of MRI for most brain tumors. It uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of the brain.
- Proton MRI: This type of MRI uses protons, which are positively charged atoms. Proton MRI can provide a more detailed image of the brain, which may be helpful in tumors such as meningiomas or brain stem gliomas.
- Functional MRI: This type of MRI can be used to look at brain activity.
How is an MRI done?
To get a brain MRI, you will need to have an MRI scan in a hospital or radiology center. There are different types of MRI available in hospitals.
- Conventional MRI: This type is done using a strong magnetic field and radio waves. It provides high-quality images of the brain.
- Proton MRI: This type of MRI uses protons, which are positively charged atoms. It provides a more detailed image of the brain, which may be helpful in tumors such as meningiomas or brain stem gliomas.
Your doctor will help you get the MRI done.
The scan takes about 30 minutes to perform.
What does an MRI scan show?
An MRI scan will show if a tumor is there. It will also show if there are areas of brain injury.
- Tumors: The MRI will show if there is a tumor. The MRI will show the shape and size of the tumor. It will show how much of the brain is affected.
- Brain injury: The MRI will show if there is damage to the brain. The MRI will show the extent of the injury and its location. It will show if there is a loss of normal brain function.
Depending on the location of the tumor, a brain MRI scan will show if there is a tumor in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, or basal ganglia, or part of the brain stem.
How do I prepare for an MRI scan?
Before the MRI, you will need to change into a hospital gown. No jewelry or valuables can be worn.
It is important to tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker or any metal in your body. These items might affect the MRI scan. See the precautions section for more information.
Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids before the scan. This helps reduce the amount of dye that might get into your stomach.
You will also need to fast for a certain amount of time before the MRI. You can eat a light breakfast and then drink a light lunch and dinner the day of the scan.
How does the MRI machine work?
The MRI machine is very sensitive to temperature changes. If the room gets too cold, the MRI can be delayed or cancelled. You will also need to tell the MRI technician if:
- You have cold or flu symptoms, such as watery eyes, a cough, or a sore throat.
- You think you have a cough or a cold.
What happens during an MRI scan?
Your doctor will tell you when you can expect the MRI scan.
- You will need to remove any clothing and jewelry from your body.
- You will get undressed from the waist up.
- There might be a slight change in the room temperature.
- You will need to put on a gown to protect your clothes.
- You will be asked to remove some of your clothing and change into a hospital gown.
During the MRI scan, you will be moved into the scanner and lie on the table. You might feel some pressure or vibration during the scan.
You will be given earplugs to block out loud noises. These will be removed at the end of the scan.
Once the scan is done, you will have time for a short break.
The MRI technician will then take pictures of your brain.
How long does it take to get results?
The results of an MRI scan take a few days to a week for the radiologist to read.
The radiologist will send a report to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results with you and explain the findings.
What do results mean?
Your doctor will discuss the results with you. They will explain what they mean and how they can help. For more information on results and their interpretation, see the next section.
Can I get a second opinion?
In some cases, your doctor may ask you to have another MRI scan. This will enable them to see if the tumor has grown.
If it does not change, your doctor may stop treatment. In some cases, they may not treat the tumor for one year.
If your tumor has grown, your doctor may recommend a second MRI scan and a biopsy. This is a procedure in which a small sample of the tumor is taken and sent to a laboratory. The results of the biopsy help your doctor make a treatment plan.
What if the MRI scan shows brain cancer?
If your MRI shows the presence of a tumor, your doctor will discuss this with you and refer you to a neurosurgeon. Your neurosurgeon will discuss the findings with you and help you decide what to do next.
What are the next steps?
Your doctor will discuss the report from the MRI scan with you. They will discuss the findings and give you more information.
Your doctor may suggest that you have:
- A biopsy, in which a small sample of the tumor is taken
- Stereotactic radiosurgery
- Hormone therapy
The choice of treatment will depend on the type of brain tumor, location, and the amount of cancer that is present.
What should I do if I have brain cancer?
If you have brain cancer, the type of treatment you have depends on:
- The location of the tumor
- The size of the tumor
- The extent of the cancer
- Whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body
- Any other factors that may affect the type of treatment you have
If you have had brain cancer, you may be asked to do some of the following:
- Attend appointments with your oncologist
- Make regular visits to your oncologist
- Make and keep appointments with other doctors
- Use a feeding tube
- Have regular blood tests
- Visit a rehabilitation center or support group
- Attend support groups
- Follow any other recommended guidelines
The goal of treatment is to cure the cancer or at least control it. Some treatments may also help to relieve symptoms and side effects.
Treatment for brain cancer may include:
- Chemotherapy: These drugs kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.
- Radiation therapy: This is the use of high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells.
- Endocrine therapy: These drugs affect hormones to stop cancer cells from growing.
- Targeted therapy: This includes drugs that attack specific parts of the cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs help the immune system attack cancer cells.
If you have brain cancer, it is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions and take any medicines that are recommended.
What are the side effects of brain cancer treatment?
The side effects of treatment depend on the type of treatment you have.
Some side effects of treatment for brain cancer may include:
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Mouth and throat problems
- Low blood pressure or low blood pressure changes
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
- The name of the test or procedure
- The reason you are having the test or procedure
- What results to expect and what they mean
Who will do the test or procedure?
Where you are having the test or procedure done may affect the results. Make sure you know:
- What symptoms to expect
- How serious symptoms are
- What action you can take if you have symptoms
You may be asked to take or stop certain things before the test. Tell the person doing the procedure.
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