Brain scans on an iPad At the University of Chicago Medicine Brain Tumor Center, we specialize in using sophisticated imaging technology and minimally-invasive techniques to determine the location, shape and growth stage of your tumor. 

Depending on the tumor, your doctor may take a blood sample or fluid from your spine to look for biomarkers that provide more detailed information on your cancer. Examining a tumor’s biomarkers can also help tailor your treatment plan. 


Your doctor may decide you need to have a biopsy, a procedure in which a small sample of tumor tissue is taken. That sample can show doctors whether your tumor is benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). It can also show what type of tumor it is, which can help decide the sort of treatment you’ll need. There are several types of biopsies:

  • Needle biopsy: This type of biopsy is often used if a tumor is in a part of the brain or spine that is hard to reach or near a vital area. For brain tumor biopsies, a special frame may be put on your head to hold it still. Your surgeon will use a thin needle guided by a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to collect cell samples from your tumor.
  • Open biopsy (craniotomy): An open biopsy is done through an opening in the skull. During the procedure, which is also called a craniotomy, the scalp is cut and a piece of skull bone is taken out, allowing the surgeon access to the brain. Often, an early diagnosis is made while you are still in the operating room. An open biopsy may also allow your doctor to remove as much of the tumor as possible.

 Once your diagnosis is confirmed, our multidisciplinary team will discuss with you your case and collaborate on a customized treatment plan.