Causes and Diagnoses

If you have CNS lymphoma symptoms, your care team may conduct tests to diagnose the issue. These tests may include:

  • An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of your brain helps find where the cancer is. On an MRI scan, CNS lymphoma in the brain may look like one tumor or more. There is usually less brain swelling around CNS lymphoma tumors than in other types of brain tumors.
  • An eye exam helps identify the lymphoma cells in your eyes.
  • A spinal tap is a test where your care team will take fluid from your spinal column. Then, they will evaluate it with testing called cytology and flow cytometry.
  • A CT (computed tomography) scan or PET (positron emission tomography) scan helps find signs of lymphoma in other parts of your body.
  • A bone marrow biopsy: This helps look for signs of cancer in your bone marrow. Bone marrow is the tissue inside the center of bones.

If these tests suggest you may have CNS lymphoma, your physician will perform a biopsy. A biopsy removes cells from your tissue. In this case, your physician will take cells from the tumor.

Next, a pathologist will study these cells under a microscope to determine what kind of cancer you may have. A pathologist is a physician with special training to study conditions with tissue samples and body fluids.

Our neuro-oncologists have special training to differentiate lymphoma from other conditions. Diagnosing CNS lymphoma early is important for better outcomes.