Brain tumors are a common form of cancer in children. They can be benign (without cancer cells) or malignant (contain cancer cells).
A tumor that starts in the brain is called a primary brain tumor. A tumor that starts in another part of the body and spreads to the brain is a secondary tumor.
It is not known why most brain tumors occur. The only known risk factor for brain tumors is being exposed to radiation. Rare cases of brain and spinal cord tumors run in families.
Brain tumors may cause:
If any of these symptoms occur without apparent cause, see your child's healthcare provider immediately.
A healthcare provider may order a computed tomographic (CT) scan. A CT scan uses computers and X-rays to create pictures of the body. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may also be done. An MRI is a test similar to a CT scan, but an MRI uses magnetic waves instead of X-rays.
Often, surgery is required to determine whether a brain tumor exists and what type of tumor it is. A small sample of tumor tissue may be surgically removed and examined under a microscope. This is called a biopsy. Sometimes a biopsy is done by making a small hole in the skull and using a needle to extract a sample of the tumor.
There are many types of brain tumors that occur in children. Treatment and chance of recovery depend on the type of tumor, its location within the brain, how much it has spread, and your child's age and general health.
Treatments for your child may include:
American Childhood Cancer Organization is a national support organization. It provides support for children with cancer and their parents. There are support groups for parents, funding for transportation, and send child cancer patients to special summer camps. Call 855-858-2226 or visit their Web site at http://www.acco.org/.