Low-Grade Glioma: Diagnosis

Receiving the correct diagnosis is critical to deciding the best treatment approach for a low-grade glioma. Our doctors focus exclusively on diagnosing and treating brain tumors, and are experts in planning the optimal treatment for each patient.

To diagnose a brain tumor, your doctor will take into account your symptoms, your medical history, a neurological examination, and other tests. High-resolution MRI imaging is a central component of diagnosing low-grade gliomas. We are also developing several new imaging approaches to learn more about the biology of brain tumors, including novel PET-imaging radiotracers.

Following your tests, a multidisciplinary team of brain tumor specialists will weigh a number of factors in deciding on treatment options for you, including:

  • Size and location of the tumor(s)
  • Grade (aggressiveness) of the primary tumor
  • Your overall health

Determining the Type of Brain Tumor

To make an accurate diagnosis, we need to have samples of your tumor tissue. These samples are usually obtained at the time of surgery to remove your tumor. In some situations, such as with a deep tumor or a tumor in a delicate area of the brain, your doctor may remove a small sample of tumor tissue during a biopsy instead of doing a more extensive surgery. 

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, tumor tissue is analyzed by our world-renowned neuropathologists and submitted for molecular and genetic testing. These tests provide the most accurate classification of a particular tumor.

Personalized Medicine for Planning Treatment

The treatment of cancer is shifting toward developing therapies that target very specific genetic alterations in cancer cells. These alterations differ between patients, so it is important to identify the genetic changes in your tumor. Our Brain Tumor Center is one of only a few centers in the world that has begun to use this type of personalized, molecular medicine as a routine part of the treatment of brain tumors.

Our pathologists analyze your tissue sample and look for molecular changes that are associated with low-grade gliomas. This information can indicate which types of treatment are more likely to shrink or control your tumor. We routinely perform these types of molecular diagnostic tests for people with low-grade gliomas.