Brain Tumor and Brain Cancer -- Child

A brain tumor is a disease in which cells grow uncontrollably in the brain. Eventually these cells form a mass of tissue called a tumor. If the tumor invades nearby tissue or spreads to other parts of the body, then it is a malignant tumor. A malignant tumor is also known as cancer. Brain cancer can fall into two categories: If the tumor does not invade other tissue it is considered a benign tumor. Although a benign tumor does not spread, it can cause damage by pressing on nearby brain tissue.

  • Causes

    The cause of most primary brain cancer and benign tumors 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.

  • Definition

    A brain tumor is a disease in which cells grow uncontrollably in the brain. Eventually these cells form a mass of tissue called a tumor. If the tumor invades nearby tissue or spreads to other parts of the body, then it is a malignant tumor. A malignant tumor is also known as cancer.
    Brain cancer can fall into two categories:

    • Primary brain cancer—begins in the brain
    • Secondary or metastatic brain cancer—cancer started somewhere else in the body and spread to the brain. These are also known as metastatic tumors.

    If the tumor does not invade other tissue it is considered a benign tumor. Although a benign tumor does not spread, it can cause damage by pressing on nearby brain tissue.

    Brain Tumor
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  • Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Muscle strength, coordination, reflexes, response to stimuli, and alertness will be tested. Your child's eyes may be examined to check for signs of brain swelling.

    Pictures may be needed of structures inside your child's body. This can be done with:

    • MRI scan
    • CT scan
    • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
    • Arteriography

    A sample of your child's brain tissue may be removed for testing. This will help identify certain characteristics of the tumor. If it is cancer, your doctor will use results from a few different tests to determine the stage of the cancer. The stage help choose the best treatment options and make a prognosis.

  • Prevention

    Since the exact cause is unknown, there is no way to prevent brain tumors.

  • Risk Factors


    Factors that increase your child’s chance of developing brain tumors include:

    • Genetic conditions such as retinoblastoma, neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, and Von Hippel-Lindau disease
    • Family history of certain types of cancer

  • Symptoms


    Symptoms depend on how large the tumor is and where it is located. Tumors can increase pressure and cause headaches. These headaches are different than the typical headaches that everyone gets. The headaches may:

    • Worsen over a period of weeks to months
    • Be worse in the morning or cause you to wake during the night
    • Worsen with change of posture, straining, or coughing

    The tumor can also affect the function of nearby tissue and cause:

    • Nausea and vomiting, especially early morning vomiting
    • Trouble with balance
    • Seizures
    • Personality changes
    • Confusion
    • Irritability
    • Drowsiness
    • Depression
    • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
    • Vision or hearing changes, including double vision
    • Memory loss
    • Problems with speech

  • Treatment

    Treatment depends on the type, size, and location of the cancer. It also depends on your child’s overall health. Some treatments can affect nearby healthy tissue. This may lead to physical or mental limitations.