Pediatric Brain Tumor Program

What are the symptoms of brain tumors in children?

 

Symptoms from brain tumors can vary widely and will depend how advanced the disease is when it is discovered. Each child may experience different symptoms  depending on size and location of the brain tumor.

The brain is contained in the closed space of the skull and there is no space for extra tissue (tumor). The growth of a tumor can cause pressure on the brain. Symptoms from pressure on the brain can include:

  • Headache

  • Vomiting (often in the morning)

  • Personality changes

  • Irritability

  • Drowsiness

  • Uncoordinated muscle movements

  • Problems walking
  • Vision changes (blurry or double vision)
  • Seizures

  • Slurred speech

  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Drowsiness or confusion

  • Memory loss

  • Puberty or growth abnormalities
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction

  • Back pain

  • Loss of sensation

 

Symptoms of a tumor may be similar to other, more common medical conditions. Consult your child's physician if you are concerned.

What causes brain tumors in kids?

 

Ongoing research is helping us to determine why brain tumors develop in certain children. Recent work suggests that a small number of brain tumors may be related to genetics. In these cases, a child may have a brain tumor, because he has inherited certain genes. When this is the case we work with pediatric geneticists and genetics counselors to help families.

  • Children with certain genetic conditions inclduing : neurofibromatosis type 1 or type 2, von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Gorlin’s syndrome and retinoblastoma,  have an increased risk of developing tumors of the brain or spine

  • Previous treatment of your child with radiation therapy to the head or spine may increase risk for new brain tumors.

How are brain tumors classified?

 

We use the World Health Organization (WHO) classification system for most pediatric brain tumors. This system incorporates the appearance of the cells from samples of the tumor during surgery. These studies indicate what type of brain cell is involved in the tumor and may reveal if the tumor is likely to spread.

Tumors also can also be classified as benign or malignant:

  • Benign tumors: usually do not have the ability to spread. Treatment with surgery to completely remove the tumor may be all that is required.

  • Malignant tumors: can invade other areas in the brain or spine. These tumors may continue to grow even if the tumor is removed at surgery. Tumor cells may grow back, and further treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy will be needed.

Brain tumors are also now being classified with molecular and genetic studies. This information helps our team to find better treatments and medications for your child.

 

What is grade of the tumor and why is it important?

 

Many pediatric brain tumors are described by a grading system to estimate their potential for spread. Higher grade tumors are usually highly malignant and very difficult to treat. The grade of a tumor is based on looking at a sample of cells from a surgery specimen. Under a microscope different features are noted. We are now using molecular profiling of tumors to help provide additional information that can be used in selecting the best treatment for your child. The grade of the tumor can help determine the outcome for your child, need for close follow-up appointments, and next steps in your child's care.

Types of pediatric brain tumors

Our team treats all forms of pediatric brain tumors. Some common tumors we treat include:

  • Medulloblastoma

  • Juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma

  • Astrocytoma

  • Glioma

  • Ganglioglioma

  • Dysembryoplastic Neuroepithelial Tumor (DNET)

  • Ependymoma

  • Epidermoid

  • Dermoid

  • Craniopharyngioma

  • Germ cell tumor

  • Germinoma

  • Hemangioblastoma

  • Hemangiopericytoma

  • Glioblastoma

  • Oligodendroglioma

  • Meningioma

  • Pineal region tumors

  • Skull-base tumors

  • Pituitary adenoma

  • Brain metastasis

 

What should I do if I think my child has a brain tumor?

The most important thing to do is to have your child evaluated. General guidelines:

  • Contact your child’s doctor right away, or call 911 for emergency help

  • Try to record or write down any abnormal behavior or symptoms that your child may be experiencing and when this may have started. Information that you may be able to remember is important for following your child after treatment.

  • If a brain tumor or spine tumor has been found please contact us for an appointment within 24 hours.