What are brain tumors in children?
A brain tumor Overview of Brain Tumors A brain tumor is a growth in your brain that may or may not be cancer. Brain tumors may start in your brain or may have spread to your brain (metastasized) from another part of your body. Brain... read more is a growth in the brain. Brain tumors may be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous. But even a noncancerous tumor can cause serious problems.
Brain tumors are among the most common cancers that affect children
The most common brain tumors in children are astrocytomas, medulloblastomas, and ependymomas—each starts in a different part of the brain
A child with a brain tumor may have headaches, throw up, and have vision or balance problems
Doctors treat brain tumors with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy
What causes brain tumors in children?
Most of the time, doctors don't know why children develop a brain tumor. However, risk of a brain tumor is higher if children received a lot of radiation to their head or have certain inherited disorders, such as neurofibromatosis.
What are the symptoms of a brain tumor in children?
Symptoms of brain tumors occur because the growing tumor puts pressure on the brain.
Infants can't say what's wrong but you may notice they:
Are sleepy or hard to wake up when they normally would be awake
If the tumor starts early in infancy, your baby's head may appear too big.
Older children have similar symptoms, but they may also have:
Vision problems, such as double vision (seeing 2 of the same object)
Trouble moving their eyes upward
Changes in mood, such as getting irritated more easily
Changes in alertness, such as being confused or drowsy
Other symptoms depend on where the tumor grows in the brain.
How can doctors tell if my child has a brain tumor?
Doctors suspect a brain tumor based on your child's symptoms. To tell if your child has a brain tumor, they'll do:
MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) MRI is a test that uses a machine with a powerful magnet to make pictures of the inside of your body. A computer records changes in the magnetic field around your body. The computer then uses... read more or, less often, CT scan Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more (sometimes doctors inject a contrast agent into your child's vein beforehand to make the images clearer)
If the MRI results show a brain tumor, doctors may:
Do surgery to remove a small piece of tissue or the entire tumor and look at it under a microscope (called a biopsy)
To see if any cancer has spread, doctors may also do a spinal tap Spinal Tap Spinal fluid is a liquid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. Spinal fluid helps cushion your brain if you hit your head or fall. Spinal fluid moves freely around your brain and spinal... read more (take a sample of fluid from the spinal cord).
How do doctors treat brain tumors in children?
A team of doctors who specialize in treating brain tumors in children will plan your child's treatment. To treat brain tumors, doctors will do a combination of:
If the tumor is blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, doctors may put a small tube in your child's brain to drain fluid before surgery.