A brain tumor is a disease in which cells grow uncontrollably in the brain. Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. If cells divide uncontrollably, they form a mass of tissue. The mass is called a growth or tumor. The term cancer usually refers to malignant tumors. These can invade nearby tissue and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not spread. But it can continue to grow and press on structures near it, causing symptoms.
Brain cancer can fall into two categories:
The cause of most primary brain cancer is unknown. Researchers believe that the tumors may be due to defects in genes. These defects trigger cells to grow uncontrollably.
Secondary brain cancer is caused by the cancer spreading to the brain from another site.
These factors increase your child’s chance of developing brain tumors:
Symptoms depend on how large the tumor is and where it is located. The extra tissue and fluid, which can build up around the tumor, can cause:
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child will have a neurologic exam. This will test muscle strength, coordination, reflexes, response to stimuli, and alertness. The doctor may also look into your child’s eyes to check for signs of brain swelling.
Tests may include:
There are many different types of brain tumors. The doctor will classify the type. The type of brain tumor is important in determining the treatment approach.
Treatment depends on the type, size, and location of the cancer. It also depends on your child’s overall health. Treatments may cause physical or mental limitations.
In some cases, the doctor may recommend that your child takes medicine, such as:
Examples of surgical procedures used to treat brain tumors include:
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. The doctor may choose to deliver the drugs into cerebrospinal fluid. This is fluid that surrounds the brain tissue.
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. This is a common treatment for brain tumors. Radiation may be used alone or along with chemotherapy.
Since your child is still developing and may have lost skills, the rehab therapy team will be an important part of treatment. The team may include:
Your child may also work with an educational specialist to help him transition back to school and to help with learning problems.
American Brain Tumor Association
American Cancer Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Cancer Care Ontario
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Children’s Hospital Boston. Brain tumors. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site659/mainpageS659P0.html . Accessed June 30, 2010.
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Brain tumors. Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin website. Available at: http://www.chw.org/display/router.asp?DocID=22484#22484_8 . Accessed June 30, 2010.
DynaMed Editorial Team. Brain tumor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated June 22, 2010. Accessed June 30, 2010.
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Pediatric brain and spinal cord tumor center. Comer Children’s Hospital, the University of Chicago website. Available at: http://www.uchicag... . Accessed July 10, 2010.
Wood D. Brain tumor and brain cancer. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/ . Updated September 30, 2009. Accessed June 30, 2010.
Last reviewed June 2012 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 06/06/2012
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