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. Like with adult brain tumours, the causes of childhood brain tumours are not yet fully understood. The following is an overview of brain tumours in children.
Our bodies are made up of billions of cells. Normally, these cells reproduce and repair themselves in a controlled way and do not cause us any problems. If for some reason this process gets disrupted, the cells can begin to grow in an uncontrolled way, creating a lump of cells called a tumour. A tumour that grows in the brain is called a brain tumour.
Normal cell division and growth (below):
Abnormal cell division and growth, leading to the development of a tumour (below):
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.
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.
Long-term effects from a childhood brain tumour vary from child to child. Some children with a brain tumour grow up to have little or no long-term effects while others may experience some of the following:
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.
Ependymomas account for about 10% of childhood brain tumour – they are the third most common type of brain tumour in children
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.
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.
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