Brain tumors are the leading cause of disease-related deaths in children under 20.
Representing 20% of all childhood cancers and 27% of all cancer deaths.
Research is essential to finding a treatment or cure.
Pediatric Brain Tumor Types
There are over 20 known types of pediatric brain tumors that can range in severity. Each type of glioma is named according to its location and the type of glial cells involved.
Treatment options will depend on the type of tumor and location and include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Advancements in treatments have led to improved survival rates for many types of tumors. Unfortunately, some tumors like DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic ontine Glioma) now referred to as DMG (Diffuse Midline Glioma), have made little progress. Primary reasons are lack of funding and public awareness. DIPG/DMG remains one of the most difficult tumors to treat given its locaation within the brain stem.
Brainstem tumors (including diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and diffuse midline glioma)
Considered rare, DIPG is the most common brain stem tumor and it is the most deadly. Expected survival rate <5% within 2 years, with overall survival rate 0%. It affects approximately 30 Canadian children a year and approximately 350 – 400 children across North America and Europe combined. It affects mostly young children between the ages 3-12 but can also occur in teenagers and adults. It is inoperable and incurable. The average life span after diagnosis is 9-12 months with only palliative treatment options such as radiation to extend life expectancy by a few months.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)
GBM is the most common astrocytoma and can spread quickly. Complete surgical removal is impossible and radiation has been shown to improve overall median survival rates. 5 year survival rate is <3%. 3,4
Dysembroplastic neuropithela tumor (DNET or DNT)
Considered relatvely rare and commonly misdiagnosed. Typical treatment is surgery with 70-90% sucess rate of removing tumor. 5 Chemotherapy and radiation are not usually considered as treatment. 5
Ganglioglioma and glial neuronal tumors
Considered rare, this slow growing tumor occurs in temporal lobes with surgery being main treatment option. Expected 5 year survival rate is 89%. 6
Optic Nerve (Pathway) Glioma
Long term survival is nearly 90 percent with chemotherapy being considered primary treatment. In some cases, radiation and surgery may be options.
Pilocytic astrocytoma, Pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma (PXA)
These types are considered relatively rare, only accounting for 2% of astrocytomas and have expected long-term survial rates. Some tumors can be successfully removed and some can have complete remission. 2
Fibrillary astrocytoma, Oligodendroglioma and mixed Oligoastrocytoma
Accounting for approximately 8% of astrocytomas,these tumors are relatively slow growing and survival rates will depend on type. Surgery can be challenging and recurrence is common. Radiation and chemotherapy are treatment options. 5 year survival rates is approximately 34% without treatment and 70% with radiation. 2
Thalamic and hypothalamic astrocytoma
A low-grade, slow-growing tumor with surgery being primary treatment. Treatment options are chemotherapy and radiation. A high survival rate is expected for these types of tumors.
Acounting for 20% of astrocytomas, without treatment of radiation and chemotherapy, expected survival is approximately 18 months. 2
Atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT) Considered rare, ATRT can occur anywhere in the central nervous system.Surgery is primary treatment, with chemotherapy being second. Depending on the child’s age, radiation may be considered. Dependent on several factors, overall survival still tends to be poor.
Expected survival rate is approximately 60%. Current treatment options of radiation and harsh chemotherapy treatments will result in permanent damage to nervous system for many children.
Neurocytoma Considered extremely rare, these tumors are often removed surgically. The majority will be cured and expected long-term survival is extremely high. Chemotherapy may be used in recurrent tumors.
Primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET), pineblastoma, polar Spongioblastoma and medulloepithelioma
These tumors are very rare and primarily occur in the cerebrum. Surgery is primary treatment but complete removal is highly unlikely. Overall 5-year survival rate of PNET is approximately 53%. 7
Craniopharyngioma, Ependymoma and myxopapillary ependymoma, Meningoima, Neurofibroma/Plexiform neurofibroma, Schwannoma (Neurilemoma), Spinal Tumors
Brain Tumor Symptoms
There can be a number of symptoms related to brain tumors. Depending on the type of tumor, location and treatments, many children can have impairment of motor functions. For those children that survive, many will face life-long medical complications from current treatments.
- Facial and limb weakness
- Slurred speech, drooling
- Balance impairments – tripping, falling
- Hand/Eye co-ordination impairments
- Hearing and vision loss
- Swallowing issues
- Loss of control of bladder and bowels
- Loss of speech
- Breathing impairments
- Partial or complete body paralysis
- Sudden heart and respiratory failure
1. McBride ML 1998 Candadian cancer and enviromental contaminants. Canadian Journal of Public Health 89:S53-S62 Suppl 1.
2. mdguidelines.com > Astrocytoma
3. Buckner, Jan C.; Brown, Paul D.; O’Neill, Brian P.; Meyer, Fredric B.; Wetmore, Cynthia J.; Uhm, Joon H. (2007). “Central Nervous System Tumors”. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 82 (10): 1271–86. doi:10.4065/82.10.1271. PMID 17908533
4. Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, http://www.cbtrus.org/
5. Shen, JunK; Guduru, Harsha; Lokannavar, HarishS (2012-01-01). “A Rare Case of Dysembryoplastic Neuroepithelial Tumor”. Journal of Clinical Imaging Science. 2 (1). doi:10.4103/2156-7514.102057. PMC 3515966 [Freely accessible] . PMID 23230542
6. Lang, F. F.; Epstein, F. J.; Ransohoff, J.; Allen, J. C.; Wisoff, J.; Abbott, I. R.; Miller, D. C. (1993-12-01). “Central nervous system gangliogliomas. Part 2: Clinical outcome”. Journal of Neurosurgery. 79 (6): 867–873. doi:10.3171/jns.1993.79.6.0867. ISSN 0022-3085. PMID 8246055
7. Smoll, N. R. (2012). “Relative survival of childhood and adult medulloblastomas and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs)”. Cancer. 118 (5): 1313–1322. doi:10.1002/cncr.26387. PMID 21837678