Can Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Adults Be Found Early?

At this time there are no widely recommended tests to screen for brain and spinal cord tumors. (Screening is testing for cancer in people without any symptoms.) Most brain tumors are found when a person goes to a doctor because of signs or symptoms they are having.

Most often, the outlook for people with brain and spinal cord tumors depends on their age, the type of tumor, and its location, not by how early it is detected. But as with any disease, earlier detection and treatment is likely to be helpful.

People with inherited syndromes

For people with certain inherited syndromes (such as neurofibromatosis or tuberous sclerosis) that put them at higher risk for brain tumors, doctors often recommend frequent physical exams and other tests starting when they are young. In some cases these tests can find tumors when they are still small. Not all tumors related to these syndromes may need to be treated right away, but finding them early might help doctors monitor them so that they can be treated quickly if they begin to grow or cause problems.

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Friedman JM. Neurofibromatosis 1. In: Pagon RA, Adam MP, Ardinger HH, et al, eds. GeneReviews® [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993-2017. 1998 Oct 2 [Updated 2014 Sep 4].

Northrup H, Koenig MK, Pearson DA, Au KS. Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. In: Pagon RA, Adam MP, Ardinger HH, et al, eds. GeneReviews® [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993-2017. 1999 Jul 13 [updated 2015 Sep 3].

Last Medical Review: September 30, 2017 Last Revised: November 6, 2017

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