Brain tumors misdiagnosis can occur when mutated cells grow in the brain tissue. Brain tumors can start in the brain tissue, or can begin in another area of the body and spread to the brain. Brain tumors can be malignant, or cancerous, or benign, noncancerous. Even if the tumor is benign, the patient must usually undergo treatment, as any growth within the brain tissue can affect motor skills or other functions. About 23,000 new cases of brain tumors are discovered each year in the United States, resulting in about 14,000 deaths.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Brain Tumor Missdiagnosis
Brain tumors take up space within the brain, and can put pressure on the brain or skull. The location of the brain tumor dictates the symptoms that the patient may experience. Different areas of the brain are responsible for different functions, so symptoms may vary widely. Generally, most patients that are suffering from a brain tumor will experience a headache.
Symptoms experienced by patients with brain tumors may include:
- Loss of movement in an arm or leg
- Seizures not explainable by other means
- Total or partial loss of vision, especially peripheral vision
- Double vision
- Difficulty with speech
- Total or partial loss of hearing
- Disorientation or dizziness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Memory loss
- Change in menstrual cycle or infertility
- Change in behavior
Brain Tumor Misdiagnosis
These symptoms are all common of other ailments and diseases, so brain tumors are often misdiagnosed. Brain tumors are often diagnosed using information obtained from brain scans and neurological tests, but in some cases a biopsy is also performed. These types of tests are expensive and a biopsy requires invasive surgery, so doctors often misdiagnose because proper testing is not done on patients after symptoms develop.
A brain scan is a picture taken of the brain using imaging machines. Doctors may use contrast medium in order to highlight certain areas of the brain that will make masses stand out. The most commonly used scans include MRIs, CT scans, and PET scans. These scans all have risk factors, such as exposure to radiation, so these tests are not often done unless there is strong suspicion of brain tumors.
These are tests that are used to determine the patient’s mental alertness, physical response, and the health of the nervous system. Since brain tumors will affect different areas of the patient’s brain, the nervous system is often affected, causing abnormal responses. This type of testing is often used as a first step in diagnosing brain tumors.
Tissue for a biopsy is more difficult to obtain from the brain than from most other areas of the body. A portion of the skull must be removed in a craniotomy in order to access certain areas of the brain. If the tumor is located closer to the surface of the skull, a biopsy may be taken with a needle, but a small hole must still be drilled into the skull to obtain the sample. These procedures are very invasive and risky, but are the most accurate way of acquiring a correct diagnosis. A biopsy is often done after a tumor has been detected using other testing, in order to determine the grade and type of tumor.
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis of Brain Tumors
Brain tumors are most commonly misdiagnosed because a physician failed to order further testing based on symptoms. Since the symptoms of brain tumors often mimic symptoms of other more common diseases, physicians often diagnose and prescribe treatment for another ailment. This can be dangerous for the patient, as the brain tumors are being allowed to grow and possibly affect further brain functions. In some cases, the patient dies before a proper diagnosis is made.
Brain tumor misdiagnosis can commonly be diagnosed as these diseases:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Headaches or migraines
- Lyme disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Subdural hematoma
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“Symptoms and Diagnosis.” National Brain Tumor Society. National Brain Tumor Society, n.d. Web. 14 Nov 2013. <http://www.braintumor.org/patients-family-friends/about-brain-tumors/symptoms-and-diagnosis.html?gclid=CLiU-9y65LoCFchQ7Aod3W4Anw>.