What are pediatric brain tumors?
A childhood brain tumor is an abnormal growth inside a child’s skull. These tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous, and even noncancerous brain tumors can threaten life and health. Tumors can form in the cerebrum, or front of the brain; the brainstem, or base of the brain; or the cerebellum, the back of the brain. Different areas of the brain control different functions, so symptoms and severity depend on the location, size and type of tumor.
What are the types of pediatric brain tumors?
Nearly half of brain tumors in children are gliomas. These tumors start in the glial cells of the brain or spine. There are several different types of gliomas, including:
- Astrocytomas: found anywhere in the brain or spinal cord
- Brain stem gliomas: which often cannot be surgically removed because of the location and the delicate and complex functions this area controls
- Ependymomas: found most often near the cerebellum, and can be slow-growing but often recur
- Optic nerve gliomas: found in or around the nerves that send messages from the eyes to the brain
Other types of tumors include:
- Primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET): occurring anywhere in the brain, often fast-growing and malignant
- Medulloblastomas: PNETs found near the midline of the cerebellum, often fast-growing
- Craniopharyngiomas: benign tumors that occur at the base of the brain near the nerves connecting the eyes to the brain and near the hormone centers
- Pineal region tumors: near the pineal gland, which helps control sleep and wake cycles
- Germ cell tumors: these tumors generally arise in the gonads (testes and ovary), but can occasionally arise in the brain as well
- Meningiomas: these are uncommon in children and arise from the folds that line the brain, separating it from the skull; they are usually benign and slow growing
- Uncommon tumors: Other uncommon tumors, such as DNET, central neurocytoma, choroid plexus tumors, optic sheath tumors, chordomas, chondrosarcomas, lymphomas and histiocytosis, can also occur in the brain in children
What are the risk factors for pediatric brain tumors?
Very few risk factors for pediatric brain tumors have been identified. Radiation exposure, such as during treatment for leukemia or another cancer, may increase the risk for brain tumors years later. Rarely, children may have genetic conditions that can increase their risk for brain tumors. Some of these conditions are hereditary, and others result from mutations before birth.
What can you do to prevent pediatric brain tumors?
Because the known risk factors are not preventable, there are no recommended preventive measures.