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High grade brain tumours in children

Each year in the UK, approximately 500 children and young people are diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Although they're relatively rare, brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and teenagers and the biggest cause of potentially treatable blindness in children - 62% of children who survive a brain tumour will be left with a life-altering, long-term disability.

What is a high grade brain tumour?

High grade brain tumours are classified as grade three or four. They:

  • are fast growing
  • can be referred to as 'malignant' or 'cancerous'
  • are more likely to spread to other parts of the brain
  • may come back, even if intensively treated
  • cannot usually be treated by surgery alone and often require additional treatments.

Is it brain cancer?

High grade brain tumours are also referred to as grade three or four brain cancer.

Occasionally, people will refer to these as 'stage three' or 'stage four' brain cancer. However, the word 'stage' is the incorrect term for discussing brain cancer, although it is often used when talking about other forms of cancer. This is because the term 'stage' refers to the spread of cancer throughout the body, as brain tumours do not spread outside of the brain they are classified by their 'grade' i.e. growth rate within the brain.

Grade one and two brain tumours grow more slowly and are usually non-cancerous. They are often referred to as 'low grade tumours'.

Click here to find out more about brain cancer.

Types of high grade brain tumour

There are over 130 types of brain tumour, as classified by the World Health Organisation accounting for both high grade (cancerous) and low grade (non-cancerous).

Medulloblastoma is the most common high grade childhood tumour, accounting for 15-20% of all childhood brain tumours. They are commonly found in children between ages of three and eight, with a higher occurrence in males.

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma or 'DIPG' has recently been renamed 'Diffuse Midline Glioma' and is the second most common type of primary, high grade brain tumour in children.

The majority of DIPGs are astrocytomas. Although the structure of DIPG cells resembles that of high grade astrocytomas originating in other parts of the brain, there are also a number of possible differences which researchers are currently trying to identify and explain.

Want to know more?

Get your free brainy bag

Complete the form below to receive information about how to address some difficult emotions you or your a child may be feeling about their brain tumour diagnosis. The pack also contains colouring in, a cuddly toy or a game to help to reduce your child's anxiety and help them open up about their thoughts and feelings in a way in which they feel safe.

We hope that it can bring a smile to a child's face and also provide them with things to do during hospital stays, visits and time at home