Brain Tumors in Children

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Children are not smaller versions of adults.  Their bodies and brains are still developing.  Their needs are different.  Their tumors are different, too.  The most common childhood brain tumors are not the same as the most common adult brain tumors. 


Though rare, brain tumors are the most common form of solid tumors among children under the age of 15 and represent about 20% of all childhood cancers.  Childhood tumors frequently appear in different locations and behave differently than brain tumors in adults.  Treatment options vary and can be strongly influenced by the age of the child.  Children with tumors may also have a much better prognosis than adults with a similar condition.


In this section, you can learn more about the characteristics of brain and spine tumors as well as the most common forms of among children.


Understanding Tumors

There are different brain tumor types and classifications based upon a tumor’s cell structure, composition, rate of growth and other characteristics.  The name and classification of a tumor may change as more information is available or because the tumor has changed over time.   


Most pediatric brain and spine tumors are primary tumors, meaning they originated in the brain or spine.  Primary tumors are classified as “benign” or “malignant.” Both can be life-threatening.


A child’s body makes cells when they are needed for development or repair.  A tumor develops when normal or abnormal cells multiply when they are not needed.  The words “benign” and “malignant” are generally used to describe how normal or abnormal the cells are when viewed under a microscope.  Tumors with cells that are similar in appearance to normal cells are called “benign.”  Tumors with cells that appear very different than normal cells are called “malignant.”  It can, however, be difficult to classify a brain tumor as “benign” or “malignant” based upon microscopic appearance because there are many other factors to consider.



Prognosis is a prediction about the future course of the disease and the likelihood of recovery.  Prognosis is based upon many factors including the type of tumor, its location and grade, the length of time your child has exhibited symptoms, the speed of growth, and treatment options.  The age of your child and the extent to which the tumor has affected your child’s ability to function are also important factors.


Because there are so many unique factors with each case, it is important to talk with your child’s health care team to better understand his or her condition and prognosis.


Brain Tumors in Children

The most common types of brain tumors in children are astrocytoma, medulloblastoma and ependymoma, however below is a full listing of pediatric tumor types. Click on the tumor type to learn more.

Click here to view our webinar on Pediatric Low Grade Glioma.