Pineal Tumor Facts
Pineal tumors arise in the region of the pineal gland. This gland is a small structure deep within the brain. These tumors represent about 1% of all brain tumors but account for 3% to 8% of the intracranial tumors that occur in children. At least 17 different types of tumors may occur in this region, and many are benign.
The three most common types of pineal region tumors are:
- germ cell tumors, and
- pineal cell tumors.
Pineal Tumor Causes
As with most brain tumors, the cause of pineal tumors is largely unknown. Research is underway to discover the possible causes.
Pineal Tumor Symptoms
Pineal region tumors arise in or near the pineal gland, which is a small midline structure located deep in the midbrain area, near many vital structures. The pineal gland is located next to the aqueduct of Sylvius, which serves as a passage allowing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to leave the center of the brain where it is first produced. Pineal tumors often compress this aqueduct, causing a build up of pressure of CSF in the brain (called hydrocephalus).
Expansion of the ventricles causes pressure on the adjacent tissues of the
brain, all of which exist in the closed space of the skull. Blockage of the flow of this fluid can cause some of the common presenting symptoms of these tumors, which include:
The intracranial pressure may even increase to life-threatening levels, demanding urgent treatment.
Hydrocephalus can be treated by placement of a ventriculo-peritoneal shunt (VP shunt). The VP shunt is a long tube placed within one of the CSF-containing spaces of the brain, then passed under the skin to the abdominal cavity to provide a pathway for CSF drainage and absorption in the abdomen.
Alternatively, the hydrocephalus can be controlled by a procedure known as a stereotactic third ventriculostomy. Third ventriculostomy creates a tiny opening in the bottom of the brain using a small endoscope to allow the CSF to escape. This procedure is usually performed under local anesthesia (without the need for general anesthesia).
Pineal region tumors may also cause visual changes as a result of involvement of the nearby tectal region which has a primary role in controlling eye movements. These changes may include:
- inability to focus on objects,
- double vision, and
- impairment of eye movements.
These problems may improve or resolve with treatment of the tumor. Certain germ cell tumors may secrete hormones which cause endocrinologic disturbances, such as early onset of puberty in children.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/22/2016
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