Brain Cancer Screening

More than 95 percent of patients diagnosed with a brain or spinal cord tumor have no known risk factors. Even the diagnosis of a family member doesn't put you at increased risk. 

Exposure to Radiation
The only known risk factor for development of brain or spine cancer is exposure to ionizing radiation. This includes radiation from prior treatment of head and neck cancers. Less common examples of this radiation include exposure to nuclear power plant accidents and nuclear weapons. Even in these situations there is a long latency period, which is the time between exposure to radiation and development of cancer. This can be 10 years or longer.

Inherited Conditions
Several rare inherited conditions have a higher risk of brain or spine cancer, as well as cancer in other parts of the body. These syndromes include neurofibromatosis types 1 & 2 (NF 1 & 2), Von Hippel Lindau (VHL) syndrome, Gorlin’s syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and others.

Many patients are diagnosed as children and have a clear familial predisposition, but a syndrome can arise as a new condition with no other family members affected. The literature reports individual families with a number of members affected by the same type of primary brain tumor. 

Screening and Periodic Restaging
Screening imaging tests can be part of the ongoing care for known cancer syndromes. Some patients who have completed treatment and have no evidence of tumor regrowth will have repeated MRI scans over a long period of time. This is not classified as screening and is instead referred to as periodic restaging. Due to the rarity of brain and spine tumors, even in patients with symptoms, it is unlikely to discover a tumor causing those symptoms. 




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