It's believed close to 70,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a cancerous or non-cancerous brain tumor this year. Even if they're removed, there's a chance the tumors could come back.
Now doctors are using a new way to figure out if a dangerous tumor is re-growing, or if something else is going on in the brain.
"I have a tumor the size of a goose egg, right here in my head." After radiation therapy, Mary Grace had that benign tumor removed from her brain. Then, a new mass popped up in the same spot.
Radiologist Dr. Robert Kagan believed it was one of two things. "The question here was, is this a malignant tumor caused by the radiation? Or is this an effect of the radiation?"
Tissue damage caused by radiation and cancerous tumor cells look alike, but "the chemical composition of radiation necrosis is a lot different than a malignant tumor," says Dr. Kagan.
The doctor was able to determine the chemical make-up of Mary's mass with M.R. spectroscopy. Without an invasive biopsy or injecting dye, he uses an advanced MRI machine to figure out if the growth is cancerous. The ratio of various brain chemicals lead to a diagnosis. "And that shows you that it is necrosis and not a tumor," says Dr. Kagan.
Mary's cancer scare has passed and the benign brain mass is safely removed. "And now my synapses are firing. It's like a Gatling gun," says Grace.