Researchers hope simple test could help diagnose brain tumors faster

Researchers hope simple test could help diagnose brain tumors faster

A woman who was left with facial paralysis and no tear function in her right eye after being diagnosed with a brain tumor after 18 months of misdiagnosis hopes a simple test will speed up the process for others.

Heather Dearie, 35, from Ayrshire, visited her doctor more than 10 times with symptoms over an 18-month period before being diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma brain tumor.

Now, a simple language test developed by researchers at a Scottish university could help diagnose brain tumors earlier.

The “Noah’s Ark” task asks participants to name as many animals as possible within 60 seconds and could help clinicians identify patients with common symptoms, such as headaches, who are more likely to have a brain tumor, suggests the study. study at the University of Edinburgh.

When Dearie’s tumor was diagnosed, she needed emergency surgery to relieve pressure on her brain from fluid buildup.

She said: “This could be a really significant breakthrough. We urgently need to find new tools to support GPs and I really hope this test will help speed up the diagnostic process and help enable more people to get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.

“Having my brain tumor diagnosed earlier could have changed my life completely and would have meant that I would have had little to none of the lifelong side effects I have now.

“I was misdiagnosed for 18 months before my tumor was finally discovered and by then it was too late for any alternative treatment to surgery, which caused facial paralysis, 50% deafness, balance and vision problems, fatigue, nerve damage, spasms muscle.

“I had to have four corrective surgeries that I wouldn’t have needed if the tumor had been found earlier. I am in constant pain and it has affected every aspect of a normal life.”

Funded by The Brain Tumor Charity, the study involved 270 people. Those with brain tumors had significantly lower scores than those who had headaches but no tumor.

The test is already used to assess the cognitive function of patients with neurological diseases – including brain tumors – but the researchers say this is the first time it has been investigated as a way to speed up the diagnosis of brain tumors.

This can shorten diagnosis time for people with brain tumors and allow immediate access to treatments and maximize their quality of life, but more research is needed to validate and optimize the test.

Paul Brennan, a consultant neurosurgeon at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh who led the study, said the first symptoms experienced by those with brain tumors are often “non-specific.”

He said: “The first symptoms experienced by brain tumor patients are often non-specific, such as headache, where a non-tumor diagnosis is much more likely.

“For example, for every 1,000 people who come to a GP with headaches, only one or two will have a brain tumor.

“Our study showed that a simple language test, which can be administered quickly and easily, can help family doctors decide who is most likely to have a brain tumor.

“Symptomatic patients with low scores can be prioritized for fast imaging, while other patients with high scores can be monitored as they are more likely to improve.

“Our findings are important to demonstrate proof of concept and we now need to validate this test in a larger group of patients to prove whether it can help guide referral for suspected brain cancer.

“Reducing the time to diagnosis for people with brain tumors remains critical as it means faster access to treatment, which is crucial to maximizing patients’ quality of life.”

Around 1,000 adults in Scotland are diagnosed with brain tumors annually.

Only 12% survive the first five years after diagnosis and life expectancy for those with brain tumors is reduced by about 27 years on average.

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