Brain Tumor

The brain controls many important body functions.  The brain has three major parts:

The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. It is at the top of the head. The cerebrum controls thinking, learning, problem solving, emotions, speech, reading, writing, and voluntary movement.

The cerebellum is in the lower back of the brain (near the middle of the back of the head). It controls movement, balance, and posture.

The brain stem connects the brain to the spinal cord. It is in the lowest part of the brain (just above the back of the neck). The brain stem controls breathing, heart rate, and the nerves and muscles used in seeing, hearing, walking, talking, and eating.  There are many types of childhood brain and spinal cord tumors. The tumors are formed by the abnormal growth of cells and may begin in different areas of the brain or spinal cord.

The tumors may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign brain tumors grow and press on nearby areas of the brain. They rarely spread into other tissues. Malignant brain tumors are likely to grow quickly and spread into other brain tissue. When a tumor grows into or presses on an area of the brain, it may stop that part of the brain from working the way it should. Both benign and malignant brain tumors can cause symptoms and need treatment.  The most common types of childhood brain and spinal cord tumors are.

Childhood Astrocytomas are tumors that start in star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes. An astrocyte is a type of glial cell. Glial cells hold nerve cells in place and help them work the way they should.  They can form anywhere in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).  There is no standard staging system for childhood astrocytoma. Treatment is based on the grade of the tumor and whether it is untreated or recurrent (has come back after treatment). The grade of the tumor describes how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope and how quickly the tumor is likely to grow and spread.

Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors are non-specific tumors that originate in the brain and spinal cord.  The tumors may be benign or malignant.

Childhood brain stem glioma is a disease in which benign (noncancer) or malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the brain stem.  The tumors may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

Central nervous system (CNS) atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors (AT/RT) are very rare, fast-growing tumors of the brain and spinal cord.  About half of these tumors occur in the cerebellum or brain stem.

Central nervous system (CNS) embryonal tumors form in brain cells when the fetus is beginning to develop.  There are 6 different types of CNS embryonal tumors:

Medulloblastomas are fast-growing tumors that form in brain cells in the cerebellum.

Pineoblastomas are fast-growing tumors that form in cells of the pineal gland. The tumor cells look very different from normal pineal gland cells. Pineoblastomas are usually malignant.

Pineal parenchymal tumors of intermediate differentiation are slow-growing or fast-growing tumors that form in the pineal gland. Some of the tumor cells almost look like normal pineal gland cells and other tumor cells look very different from normal pineal gland cells.

Central nervous system primitive neuroectodermal tumors (CNS-PNETs) are fast-growing tumors that usually form in brain cells in the cerebrum. The cerebrum is at the top of the head and is the largest part of the brain. The cerebrum controls thinking, learning, problem-solving, emotions, speech, reading, writing, and voluntary movement. CNS-PNETs may also form in the brain stem or spinal cord.

Medulloepitheliomas are fast-growing tumors that form in brain cells that line tubelike spaces in the brain and spinal cord. These rare tumors are most common in infants and young children.

Ependymoblastomas are fast-growing tumors that form in brain cells lining the fluid -filled spaces in the brain and spinal cord, where it is often near the tailbone.

Childhood CNS atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors are also a type of embryonal tumor, but they are treated differently than other childhood CNS embryonal tumors.

Craniopharyngiomas are rare tumors usually found near the pituitary gland (a pea-sized organ at the bottom of the brain that controls other glands) and the hypothalamus (a small cone-shaped organ connected to the pituitary gland by nerves).

Ependymomas are a type of brain tumor that begins in cells lining the spinal cord central canal (fluid-filled space down the center) or the ventricles (fluid-filled spaces of the brain). Ependymomas may also form in the choroid plexus (tissue in the ventricles that makes cerebrospinal fluid).

Treatment Options for Brain Tumors:


Treatment options vary depending on the location, severity, and type of CNS tumor.

Astrocytomas – surgery, cerebrospinal fluid diversion, watchful waiting, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant, targeted therapy

Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors – surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant

Brainstem Gliomas – surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, cerebrospinal fluid diversion, watchful waiting, radiation therapy with radiosensitizers

Central Nervous System Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumors -  surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant

Central Nervous System Embryonal Tumors – surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant, targeted therapy

Craniopharyngioma – surgery, limited surgery and radiation therapy, chemotherapy biologic therapy

Ependymoma – surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/child-astrocytomas/patient (Accessed July 2016)

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/childbrain/Patient (Accessed July 2016)

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/child-brain-stem-glioma/Patient (Accessed July 2016)

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/child-CNS-ATRT/patient (Accessed July 2016)

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/childCNSembryonal/patient (Accessed July 2016)

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/child-cranio/patient (Accessed July 2016)

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/childependymoma/Patient (Accessed July 2016)