Ask the Expert: What are the most common types of brain tumors in children? – The Daily Progress

Posted: January 13, 2020 at 11:47 am

What are the most common types of brain tumors in children, and what treatment options are available?

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors affecting children, with approximately 4,500 new cases each year in the U.S.

As brain tumors expand or block the normal pathways in the brain, the pressures inside the skull expand. As a result, symptoms of brain tumors can include headaches, seizures, lethargy, nausea and vomiting. A child experiencing progressively worsening symptoms like these should be evaluated by a pediatrician or in the emergency room. The doctors evaluation may include a scan of the brain. If the scan shows a tumor, the next step is a consultation with a neurosurgeon.

The majority of pediatric brain tumors occur in the posterior fossa (located near the bottom of the skull and the brain stem). The most common tumors include medulloblastoma, pilocytic astrocytoma, and ependymoma. Other less common tumors can occur in the cerebral hemispheres (the two main portions of the brain) and include astrocytomas, gangliogliomas, craniopharyngiomas, and germ cell tumors.

Surgery is usually the first step in treatment when a brain tumor is discovered. The goals of surgery are to determine whether the tumor is cancerous and remove all or as much of the tumor as safely as possible. At UVa Childrens Hospital, the latest technologies are utilized to help perform surgery, including intraoperative MRI, navigation, ultrasound and minimally invasive endoscopic surgery. Based on the types of cells found in the brain tumor, additional treatments may be needed. These therapies may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, proton therapy, stem cell rescue and bone marrow transplantation and/or supportive care for rehabilitation.

More recent treatment options have focused on precision medicine and targeted drug therapy. Targeted drug treatments can cause brain tumor cells to die by blocking abnormalities present within these cells. These drugs are changing how brain tumors are treated while improving outcomes. Current research is focused on understanding the molecular basis of tumor formation and discovery of new targets for treatment.

At UVa, we are committed to providing the best neurosurgical care for children through our multidisciplinary brain tumor team, consisting of neurosurgery, neurology, pediatric oncology and radiation oncology.

For more information, visit

Dr. Hasan R. Syed and Dr. John Jane Jr. are pediatric neurosurgeons at UVa Childrens Hospital.

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Ask the Expert: What are the most common types of brain tumors in children? - The Daily Progress

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