Approximately 4,000 children and adolescents in the United States are diagnosed with brain tumors annually. A benign tumor does not contain cancer cells and usually, once removed, does not recur. Malignant tumors contain cancer cells. They usually are fast growing and invade surrounding tissue. They may recur after treatment.
Brain tumors in infants and children are very different from adult brain tumors, both in terms of the type of cells and the responsiveness to treatment.
The most common type of brain tumor is a glioma.
There are several types of gliomas, including:
Astrocytomas, which can be found anywhere in the brain or spinal cord. Astrocytomas are the most common type of childhood brain tumor.
Brain stem gliomas, which occur almost exclusively in children. Most brain stem tumors cannot be surgically removed because of their location.
Ependymomas usually develop in the lining of the ventricles or in the spinal cord. In children, they are commonly found near the cerebellum.
Optic nerve gliomas are found in or around the nerves that send messages from the eyes to the brain.
Primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET) can occur anywhere in the brain of a child, although the most common place is in the back of the brain near the cerebellum. When PNETs occur here, they are called medulloblastomas.
Medulloblastomas are a particular type of PNET that are found near the midline of the cerebellum. This tumor grows rapidly.
Craniopharyngiomas are benign tumors that occur at the base of the brain near the nerves from the eyes to the brain and the hormone centers. Most occur in children and young adults.
Pineal region tumors. Many different tumors can arise near the pineal gland, a gland that helps control sleep and wake cycles. Biopsy or removal of the tumor is frequently necessary to tell the different types of tumors apart.
Symptoms of a brain tumor may include:
- Vomiting (usually in the morning)
- Personality changes and irritability
- Drowsiness or confusion
- Visual changes
- Slurred speech
- Paralysis or weakness on half of the body or face
- Short-term memory loss
- Problems walking, clumsiness
Prompt medical attention and aggressive therapy are important for the best outcomes. Brain tumor treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
The full-time pediatric hematologist oncologists affiliated with Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital treat cancer in children and diagnose and provide all of your child’s treatments right here in the Lehigh Valley. Because our pediatric oncology practice is part of the Children’s Oncology Group, a National Cancer Institute coalition of more than 230 children’s hospitals, our patients have access to the latest therapies and national clinical trials.