Pediatric Brain Tumors

What are Pediatric Brain Tumors?

Pediatric Brain Tumors (neoplasms) are rare, but they include approximately 20% of the cancers found in children. Most are primary, meaning they begin in the brain, but they can be metastatic (starting elsewhere first).

There are more than 120 different primary kinds, and they can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). The cause of pediatric brain tumors is uncertain, but researchers have determined that hereditary is rare. Most are caused by unexplained DNA mutations. With the exception of radiation, it has not been determined that lifestyle or anything biological brings about pediatric brain tumors. Therefore, they cannot be prevented by parents and caregivers. Thankfully, as many as 80% can be cured with proper treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Pediatric Brain Tumors?

Physical symptoms of pediatric brain tumors depend on numerous factors including the location and size of the mass. General symptoms of a pediatric brain tumor may include:

  • Ongoing headaches
  • Queasiness and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Loss of strength or paralysis
  • Balance problems
  • Convulsions
  • Hearing loss
  • Moodiness
  • Fatigue
  • Personality changes
  • Speaking difficulties
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Depression

A neurological exam, brain imaging with and without dye, a PET scan, tissue biopsy, and/or cerebral spinal fluid testing may be used to diagnose pediatric brain tumors.

Pediatric Brain Tumors Causes

There are several different types of cancers categorized as pediatric brain tumors. For some of these types of pediatric brain tumors, there is a known or suspected cause. For other types of pediatric brain tumors, doctors are unsure as to why they occur.

As a general rule, most researchers agree that virtually all forms of pediatric brain tumors have a genetic cause. Something changes the DNA structure of the brain causing cells within it to be produces too rapidly.

Some genetic conditions in children are known causes of pediatric brain tumors. Children with neurofibromatosis will almost always develop brain cancer. Those with Von Hippel-Lindau disease, Li-Frameni syndrome and retinoblastoma also have a high likelihood of developing pediatric brain tumors. These genetic disorders are associated with a type of brain tumor known as a glioma.

Some researchers believe that toxins in the environment may play some role in causing pediatric brain tumors while other scientists believe that they do not.

One well-known cause of pediatric brain tumors is exposure to radiation. This exposure may occur while the child is still in the womb.

How is Pediatric Brain Tumors Treated?

If left untreated, pediatric tumors can result in coma and death. Treatment depends on the type of cells, the location, the size, whether it is cancerous or non-cancerous (grade) and the overall health of the child. A treatment plan may include:

  • Observation of slow growing brain tumors
  • Surgical removal
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy

Pediatric Brain Tumors Prevention

Doctors know of virtually no way to prevent pediatric brain tumors. Many of the preventative tips that doctors give to patients to reduce the chances of other types of cancers developing do not seem relevant to the prevention of pediatric or adult brain cancer.

For instance, doctors strongly advise that people should never smoke. However, tobacco smoke does not penetrate the brain-blood barrier, so it could not directly affect the brain cells. Along that same line, diet changes seem to have no effect in preventing pediatric brain tumors.

Limiting one’s exposure to radiation while carrying a baby in the womb is one known means of prevention. Limiting children’s exposure to sources of radiation after birth is especially important as well.

Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
December 22, 2017