Contact Us | Location

Brain Tumors in Children

Tag Archives: Astrocytoma Brain Tumor

Brain tumors in children make up about 15% of pediatric cancers. They are the second most common cancer in children, after childhood leukemias.

The most common brain tumor in children is medulloblastoma. There are many other that affect children, including astrocytomas, gliomas, ependymomas, germinomas and more.Brain Tumor child

Symptoms of Brain Tumors in Children

The symptoms of brain tumors in children vary greatly and depend on the size of the tumor and where it is located. They can include:

  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems with walking or balance
  • Changes in personality
  • Aggression and irritability
  • Weakness or lack of energy 
  • Learning difficulties
  • Memory loss
  • Problems with hearing, vision and other senses
  • Pain, especially back pain
  • Headaches, especially early in the morning or in the middle of the night

Because these symptoms are so variable and can be caused by many other things, brain tumors are often misdiagnosed at first, and it can take a long time for the right tests to be done to discover and identify the brain tumor.

Prognosis for Children with Brain Tumors

The prognosis for children with brain tumors depends on the type of tumor, its grade (a number that indicates how abnormal the cancer cells are and how fast they are likely to grow and spread), its size and its location.

For some tumors, especially those that can easily be removed by surgery, the prognosis is good. There are other tumors that very few children, or none at all, have ever survived.

Even when children do survive, they are often left with lifelong effects from the tumor and its treatment, including learning difficulties, growth problems, paralysis and more.

Treatment for Brain Tumors in Children

Like the prognosis, the treatment of brain tumors depends on the type, grade, size and location of the tumor. Treatment often involves a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Treatment for brain tumors is challenging because the brain is a crucial and highly sensitive organ, and it’s difficult to target treatment at the tumor without harming important parts of the brain.

Removing the brain tumor by surgery is ideal, but not always possible. Sometimes the tumor is too widespread and mixed with other healthy tissue, and sometimes surgeons won’t be able to get to the tumor without damaging other critical parts of the brain.

It’s also very difficult to get chemotherapy to reach the tumor because of the blood-brain barrier, a layer of cells that protect the brain from anything foreign — including most drugs — in the blood. 

Because treatment options are limited, some parents choose to enroll their children in clinical trials.

Naomi’s Story

Naomi was just a normal 8-year-old girl until one day she collapsed in school and couldn’t remember her name. After several trips to the hospital, her parents finally got the diagnosis they never could have fathomed: stage 4 pinealoblastoma, a brain tumor of the pineal gland. It had already spread to her spine.

Naomi’s treatment plan is tough: she’s already had four brain surgeries, and she’s undergoing chemotherapy and 30 proton radiation treatments.

Naomi’s a little girl with a big heart, and she keeps her spirits up by helping the other children in the hospital. Last year, she gave away her Halloween candy to kids who couldn’t go trick-or-treating, and now she’s starting a teddy bear drive.

You can help kids like Naomi by making a donation to the American Childhood Cancer Organization. Your gift helps provide educational resources and support programs for children with cancer, survivors, and their families, as well as raise awareness about childhood cancer and the need for more research.


Kale’s Story: Astrocytoma Brain Tumor

acco_chicago061516-3566“Everything you think you know about cancer, until you’re living it, you don’t know anything.”

Barely two years old, Kale has been fighting childhood cancer for most of his short life. At his routine four-month check-up, his mother asked the pediatrician about some strange symptoms she had noticed: his head seemed slightly larger than normal and his eyes fluttered back and forth in an unusual way. Although the pediatrician did not have any immediate concerns, he recommended a follow-up visit with an ophthalmologist just to be sure. The ophthalmologist, however, was immediately concerned. His exam quickly revealed unusual swelling in the optic nerve (the nerve responsible for communication between the eyes and the brain). He recommended that Kale’s parents take him to a hospital right away for additional testing.

The results were devastating: Kale had hydrocephalus, or a build-up of fluid around the brain, caused by astrocytoma, a type of brain tumor. Astrocytoma forms from the “glue-like” tissue that supports the brain. In Kale’s case, the tumor had grown in place of the tubes that allow the brain to naturally release fluid to be reabsorbed by the body. Moreover, although Kale’s tumor was diagnosed as Grade 2, it had already metastasized to his spinal column and would needed to be treated as if it were Grade 3. Kale’s parents were told that the odds of Kale’s survival were low.

acco_chicago061516-3587“We never knew what to expect from one day to the next.”

The emotional rollercoaster described by Kale’s mom began that very day. The first challenge was releasing the fluid pressing on Kale’s brain. Doctors first tried an AP (arterioportal) shunt that would allow excess fluid from the brain to drain into the stomach where, in theory, Kale’s body would naturally reabsorb it. Unfortunately, Kale’s stomach quickly became overwhelmed with fluid, which in turn led to breathing problems. After manually draining the fluid from his belly six times, doctors turned to a VP (ventriculoperitoneal) shunt, which drained the fluid into his heart, where it could be pumped around the body and reabsorbed through the blood stream.

Having coped with the hydrocephalus, Kale’s oncology team turned to fighting the tumor. The diffuse nature of the tumor made surgical removal impossible. While brain tumors in older children and adults are usually treated with radiation therapy, radiation is not recommended for children under the age of 3 due to the high risk of long-term damage to the delicate tissues of the brain. Kale began his first round of chemotherapy just two weeks after his initial visit to the ophthalmologist. Now into his third round of chemotherapy, Kale’s tumor is not shrinking but it is also no longer growing. While his parents hope that the treatment will eventually begin to shrink the tumor, they also realize that the tumor could also begin growing again at any point. “We are living in fear of the future,” states Kale’s mom, “it’s like there’s an angry beast attacking our child, and there’s nothing, as a parent, I can do about it.”

acco_chicago061516-3529“We are not alone.”

Kale’s mother clearly articulates the emotional challenges many childhood cancer families face when they first hear those words: your child has cancer. “It’s a whole new world,” says Kale’s mom. She describes how they learned to navigate the medical terminology needed to understand the treatment protocols, how they learned how to operate the medical machinery needed to monitor Kale during chemotherapy. Yet despite never knowing what was going to come next, they continue to fight, every day, for Kale’s life.

Even in the darkest moments, they have found some comfort in discovering that they are not alone, that there are others who feel the same way, that there are others fighting the same battles. Kale’s name is on this year’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Shirt, one of more than 5,700 children featured on the shirts. Kale’s mother notes that seeing so many names brings a mix of emotions: sadness that so many children have had their lives turn upside down by childhood cancer, but also comfort knowing that there are other families who understand what Kale is going through. “Seeing the names helps us feel that we are not alone.”

About the American Childhood Cancer Organization

The American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) is a non-profit charity dedicated to helping kids with cancer and their families navigate the difficult journey from cancer diagnosis through survivorship. Internationally, the ACCO is the sole US member of Childhood Cancer International (CCI), the largest patient-support organization for childhood cancer in the world. Here in the United States, the ACCO promotes the critical importance of ensuring continued funding into new and better treatment protocols for childhood cancer.  And most importantly, the ACCO is focused on the children: developing and providing educational tools for children fighting cancer and their families, empowering them in their understanding of childhood cancer and the medical decisions they must make during this difficult journey. All of ACCO’s resources are available free of charge for families coping with childhood cancer.

For additional information about childhood cancer or on the ACCO, or to order resources for you or your child, please visit our website at

To submit a Gold Ribbon Hero’s story, please Click Here

For additional information about childhood cancer or on the ACCO, or to order resources for you or your child, please visit our website at , call 855.858.2226 or visit:

Want To Read American Childhood Cancer Organization On Your Phone? Click the NoteStream logo: NoteStream