A simple test could diagnose brain tumours

A new simple language test created by scientists at the University of Edinburgh could help to diagnose brain tumour symptoms at an earlier stage. The ‘Noah’s Ark’ test requires patients to name as many animals as possible in 60 seconds, which could help GPs to identify patients from common symptoms, such as persistent headaches and intellect or memory issues.

What is the Noah’s Ark test

The Noah’s Ark test is already used as a quick and simple way to assess cognitive function within patients affected by neurological conditions, but this new study is the first time the test has been used as a way to diagnose brain tumours. The marker for the test is being able to name 14 or more animals in less than 1 minute, with low numbers indicating a poor performance. 

What did the study involve?

87.5% of participants with a score of less than 14 had a brain tumour

The study was funded by The Brain Tumour Charity and involved 270 people, all over the age of 16. Within the group of patients, 180 had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour, with some experiencing the usual headache symptoms. The remaining 90 participants were suffering headaches, however following a GP referral for a scan, they were found to not have a brain tumour.

The verbal fluency task (VFT) was conducted with the brain tumour patients before they underwent surgery, and with the remaining 90 participants following their brain scan that excluded a brain tumour. Using a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis, it was found that those who had been diagnosed with brain tumours scored much lower scores than those who did not have tumours. In fact, 87.5% of participants with a score of less than 14 had a brain tumour, and those who achieved a score of above 14 were eight times more likely to not have a brain tumour.

The researchers also assessed whether there was an impact on test scores based on tumour grade, size, and location, with results indicating that the lowest scores were associated with those suffering from the most aggressive brain tumours, including cerebral metastases, cerebral lymphomas, and high-grade gliomas. In addition, if the tumour was located in the frontal lobe or was large in size, this also negatively impacted the test result.

Research into early tumour diagnosis

The experts at the University of Edinburgh will continue to conduct further research so that the test can be fully optimised for use by GP’s, as there are currently no effective screening tools in place to help identify those who need an urgent brain scan.

This is a welcome development in the search for early brain tumour diagnosis, and as the study has shown, the Noah’s Ark test could be used to speed up brain tumour diagnosis through GP referrals for rapid imaging or for further observation. For example, if a GP does not suspect that a patient is suffering from a brain tumour and they score highly in the test, they may be placed on a list for further observation, but a low score combined with the doctor’s concern would lead to a recommendation for urgent imaging.

Through early diagnosis, patients will be able to access early treatment options, however continued funding and research is needed to ensure that this early-stage science is utilised fully in clinical settings. This is why our charity is so committed to raising the vital funds needed to support this important research. If you would like to find out more about the research we fund, how to get involved or the support we offer, please contact us today.

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Childhood brain tumours are relatively rare.

Childhood brain tumours are thankfully relatively rare.

1500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK, of these, around 400 children are diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Most of the time symptoms that your child may show that cause you concern will not be due to a brain tumour.

However, it is important to talk to your doctor if you are concerned.

What are the Symptoms of a Childhood brain tumour ?

Symptoms of brain tumours can vary from child to child.

Symptoms can often mimic relatively minor childhood illnesses.

Common symptoms of brain tumours

Taking Your Child to a G.P if you suspect a brain tumour

If your child has one or more of the symptoms listed, or you are concerned, you should take them to see a Doctor as soon as possible.

Explain your worries about the symptoms being a sign of a possible brain tumour.

If your child is exhibiting two or more of the symptoms listed, ask the Doctor for an urgent referral, meaning  your child will be given an appointment with a specialist who can look into the cause of the symptoms.

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