Diagnosing brain tumors in a timely manner can be difficult. Early symptoms of the deadly condition, such as coordination problems and persistent headaches, are common to several other medical conditions.
Brain tumor diagnosis usually relies on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to spot the tumor and surgery or a biopsy to determine the kind of tumor. But the Brain Tumour Charity estimates that health professionals miss an overwhelming amount of brain cancer cases in their first investigation (99%) and that patients often go years before getting an accurate diagnosis.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have developed a new verbal fluency test that they say could alleviate the issue of late diagnosis and allow doctors to spot brain cancers early. Dubbed the Noah’s Ark test by the Brain Tumour Society, the verbal fluency test can help healthcare professionals identify common symptoms that may point to an undiagnosed brain tumor.
The researchers found that more than 87% of the participants who scored poorly on the test (they couldn’t name more than 14 animals) had a brain tumor while 48.1% of the participants with a good score did not have brain cancer.
The study, which was funded by the Brain Tumor Charity, proposes that the test could help general practitioners determine which patients need rapid imaging procedures such as MRI scans. These tests are costly and can set a patient back about $1,000–$5,000 without insurance.
The Brain Tumor Charity CEO Dr. David Jenkinson stated that identifying whether certain key symptoms are caused by brain tumors or other less-severe conditions can be challenging. For example, Heather Dearie from Ayrshire, Scotland, visited a general practitioner more than 10 times and experienced symptoms for 18 months before she was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma tumor.
According to the National Health Service, this is a noncancerous brain tumor that grows on the auditory nerve over years. This is the nerve that is used for balance and hearing. Dearie believes that an early diagnosis could have changed her life because it would have allowed her to address the brain tumor with alternative treatments other than surgery.
However, after 18 months of misdiagnosis, it was too late for her to do any alternative treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. Although surgery managed to get rid of a large portion of the tumor, she is now 50% deaf and suffers from nerve damage, balance and vision issues, muscle spasms and fatigue. Furthermore, some of the tumor still remains in her brain.
The verbal fluency test will need further research to determine if it can be deployed on a larger group of patients, said NHS Lothian and University of Edinburgh honorary consultant neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Brennan.
The development of mechanisms through which brain tumors can be detected early is a perfect complement to the search for better treatments by companies such as CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) since any treatment administered in the initial stages of a disease stands a higher chance of curing the condition, unlike in situations when a disease has advanced before it is diagnosed.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/CNSP
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