Brain Tumors in Children
What Is a Brain Tumor?
A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of cells inside the skull. Tumors may grow from the brain cells, the blood vessels in the brain, the nerves that come from the back of the brain, or the membranes that cover the brain.
There are many types of tumors in the brain. They are classified by the area from which they grow and the amount of growth that has occurred since diagnosis.
Although some tumors grow more slowly, all brain tumors are dangerous because they push on the brain. Some tumors can spread to the spine, but they rarely go elsewhere in the body.
Most Common Types of Brain Tumors
- Pineal tumor
- Astrocytoma (or glioma)
What Are the Symptoms of a Brain Tumor?
Symptoms depend on the size of the tumor and where it is in the brain. As a tumor grows, you may notice other symptoms. Often the symptoms of a brain tumor are a lot like those of other diseases.
General symptoms may include
- headaches that happen over and over
- headaches that are worse in the morning
- nausea or vomiting
- mental changes (feeling drowsy or sluggish)
- clumsy movements
Other symptoms may include
- growing weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- problems with vision, speech, hearing or concentration that worsen slowly
- memory loss
- noted change in behavior
How Are Brain Tumors Diagnosed?
The bones of the skull hide brain tumors. Your doctor or nurse cannot feel or see them during a routine check-up. Instead, he or she will get a complete health history, and perform a neurological exam.
Other tests, listed below, might also be needed:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT or CT) Scan
- X-Ray of the blood vessels of the brain (Angiography)
- Biopsy: a sample of tumor is taken during surgery and studied under a microscope. This gives an exact diagnosis
How Are Brain Tumors Treated?
The treatment of choice for tumors is to remove them by surgery. This treatment is used if it can be done without causing severe brain damage. The goal is to remove the entire tumor that can be seen. Some tumors may need radiation and chemotherapy. Treatment depends on where the tumor is and what kind of tumor it is.
The most common way to remove a brain tumor is a craniotomy. The neurosurgeon makes a cut into the scalp. A piece of bone is removed to expose the part of the brain over the tumor. After the tumor is removed, the bone is replaced and the skin is sewn together.
Radiation Therapy (x-ray treatment)
Many tumors will simply die when exposed to radiation. This treatment is given over many weeks.
Chemotherapy uses special chemicals to poison tumor cells. Tumor cells are more affected by these poisons than are healthy cells.
Steroids control the swelling often seen with brain tumors.
Department of Neurosurgery RNs: (608) 262-2761 or (608) 890-6942
Appointments: (608) 263-6420
If you live out of the area: 1 (800) 323-8942
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/12/2011
Copyright © 07/12/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5337
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