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 sees a doctor because of signs or symptoms they are having (see  Signs and symptoms of adult brain and spinal cord tumors).

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.

For people with certain inherited syndromes that put them at higher risk for brain tumors, such as neurofibromatosis or tuberous sclerosis, 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.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: March 5, 2014 Last Revised: January 21, 2016

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