Childhood brain tumours - Standard format (pdf)
Find out more about Childhood brain tumours in the full fact sheet.
Around 560 children and young people aged 19 and under are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK. Read more about childhood brain tumour types, side effects and the support we offer to children with a brain tumour and their families.
Symptoms of a brain tumour vary from child to child and can also depend on where they are located in the brain. Some of the brain tumour symptoms are similar to those of other childhood illnesses. The presence of a symptom does not necessarily mean that your child has a brain tumour.
Common symptoms of childhood brain tumours include:
If your child has one or more of the above, you should take them to see a GP, explaining your worries. If they have two or more, ask for an urgent referral which means that your child will be given an appointment with a specialist who can further investigate the causes of the symptoms.
More information about the symptoms of a brain tumour in children can be seen on the Symptoms of brain tumours in children page.
When your doctor refers your child to a specialist, they will ask questions about your child's health, carry out a physical examination as well as a number of other tests (such as blood tests). Your child will also need an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computerised tomography) scan to confirm whether a brain tumour is present. Following a scan, if a brain tumour is found, a biopsy may be taken from your child's tumour. Alternatively, if possible surgical removal of the tumour will be undertaken. In both of these cases, cells from the tumour will be analysed in a laboratory, so that a detailed diagnosis of the exact tumour type and grade can be given which will determine the best course of treatment for your child.
There are many different types of brain tumour. The most common types in children are:
Around half of all childhood brain tumours are a type of glioma which means they are derived from the various glial cells. Astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and ependymal cells are all types of glial cells.
Of all gliomas, the largest subgroup is astrocytoma (arising from astrocytes) and these constitute over two-fifths (43%) of all brain and spinal tumours in children.
Most astrocytomas tend to be slow growing (73% are low grade) and are diagnosed throughout childhood with no strong pattern by either sex or age.
Approximately 10-15% of childhood brain tumours in the UK are a type of high-grade astrocytoma called a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). DIPG is a fast growing, type of brain tumour that originates in the brain stem. They often appear in children aged around six years old.
Read more about astrocytomas.
Ependymomas account for about 10% of childhood brain tumour – they are the third most common type of brain tumour in children.
Read more about ependymomas.
About 20-25% of childhood brain tumours are primitive neuroectodermal tumours (PNETs), which are malignant tumours. PNETs occur most frequently in younger children and incidence decreases with age with more than half of all PNETs being diagnosed in children less than 10 years old.
Read more about PNET tumours.
These are the most common type of high-grade tumour in children. They make up around 20% of all childhood brain tumours. They are more common in boys than girls and are most commonly diagnosed at around the age of 5 years.
These account for 8% of childhood brain tumours. They do not usually spread, but are near important structures in the brain and can cause problems as they grow. They can cause changes in hormone levels and problems with eyesight. Children with craniopharyngioma can experience weight gain and growth problems.
Read more about craniopharyngiomas.
For further information on more types of childhood brain tumours please see our fact sheet at the bottom of this page or visit our child brain tumour types page.
Very often, the answer is that we just do not know. This can be one of the most difficult things to accept as a parent as it can leave you feeling helpless. There is no research that shows that anything you may have done during pregnancy or in your child's early infancy could have caused your child's brain tumour.
Learn more about how brain tumours form on our What is a brain tumour? page.
Treatments for childhood brain tumours may include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or proton beam therapy. Several factors influence which treatment will best help your child. A team of specialised professionals will consider your child's individual diagnosis and take account of factors, such as the size and location of the tumour, the type of tumour your child has and how quickly it is growing. They will also consider your child's age and their general health.
Read more about childhood brain tumour treatments.
Long-term effects from a childhood brain tumour vary from child to child and depend on the exact location of the tumour within their brain and the therapy given. Your child's consultant will be able to talk you through possible long-term effects they might experience. Some children with a brain tumour grow up to have little or no long-term effects while others may experience some of the following:
Coping with a diagnosis of a childhood brain tumour can have a huge impact on you, as parents/carers, and on the rest of your family.
The Brain Tumour Charity's Children and Families Service can give help to you or your child if you need it. We have dedicated Children and Families Workers who can offer both practical and emotional support to parents, children and siblings.
If you have any questions or would like to talk to a member of the Support and Information team please phone 0808 800 0004 or email email@example.com.
Page last reviewed: 02/2014
Next review due: currently under review
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