About Cancer > Brain Cancers

Brain Cancer

Affecting any age of the child, brain tumours are the most common type of tumour found in children, affecting about 400 children in the UK each year 1

Placement and Types of Brain Cancer

The brain has many different areas responsible for different actions in the body, for example, the frontal lobe which is responsible for thinking, memory, behaviour and movement. The position of the cancer will define the symptoms displayed and how the cancer is treated. 60% of childhood brain cancers are found in the posterior fossa region which contains the Cerebellum (responsible for balance and coordination) and the brain stem (responsible for breathing, heart rate and temperature).

Brain cancer can be either benign or malignant. Benign cancers are unlikely to spread but can still cause serious effects. Benign cancers include low-grade astrocytoma (low-grade glioma), craniopharyngioma and choroid plexus cancers. About 40% of brain cancers in children are low-grade gliomas.

Malignant cancers are more likely to spread and include Medulloblastomas, Ependymomas, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas, Embryonal cancers, Atypical teratoid rhabdoid cancer (ATRT), High-grade astrocytoma and Intracranial germ cell cancers1

Symptoms of Brain Cancer

The symptoms a child will display from a brain cancer will vary depending on the size, type and position of the cancer. However, in most cases, brain cancer will cause an increased amount of pressure in the head, as the cancer pushes the brain or blocks the flow of fluid to the brain. This is called raised intracranial pressure causing symptoms that include:

  • Headaches that are worse in the morning
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Eye problems including abnormal movements, blurring or double vision
  • Feeling extremely drowsy for no reason

Other common symptoms are issues with mobility balance and walking. Some may also notice a change in behaviour.1

Incidence & Causes of Brain Cancers

The causes of brain cancers are largely not yet understood.

Brain cancers fall into the category of Central Nervous System (CNS) cancers. The number of children in England Diagnosed with a CNS cancer between 2003 and 2012 was 3510 accounting for 24% of cancers diagnosed in that period.


The position, size and type of brain cancer will ultimately define the treatments used to combat cancer. Treatments can include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Also, complimentary medication may be required to combat the symptoms of a brain cancer including steroids to reduce swelling and inflammation and anticonvulsants.1

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