Symptoms and Signs of Childhood Brain Stem Glioma

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/17/2021

Doctor's Notes on Childhood Brain Stem Glioma

Childhood brain stem glioma is a type of cancer in which cells start to grow abnormally in the tissues of the brain stem. There are two types of brain stem gliomas in children:

  1. Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), which is a high-grade tumor that is fast-growing, spreads throughout the brain stem, is hard to treat, and has a poor prognosis
  2. Focal glioma, which is slow-growing, located in one area of the brain stem, is easier to treat than DIPG, and has a better prognosis

Symptoms of childhood brain stem glioma depend on where the tumor forms in the brain, the size of the tumor and whether it has spread throughout the brain stem, how fast the tumor grows, and the child's age and development. Symptoms of childhood brain stem glioma may include:

  • loss of ability to move one side of the face and/or body,
  • loss of balance,
  • trouble walking,
  • vision and hearing problems,
  • morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • unusual sleepiness,
  • more or less energy than usual,
  • changes in behavior, and
  • trouble learning in school.

What Is the Treatment for Childhood Brain Stem Glioma?

Treatment options for childhood brain stem glioma depend on several factors, including the type and characteristics of the tumor as well as its precise size and location. Possible side effects and the child’s overall health are also important considerations.

  • Radiation therapy is the most common treatment.
  • In some cases, chemotherapy may also be used in addition to radiotherapy.
  • Surgery is a less common option due to the location of this tumor type.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.