Childhood brain stem glioma is a disease in which benign (noncancer) or malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the brain stem.
Gliomas are tumors formed from glial cells. Glial cells in the brain hold nerve cells in place, bring food and oxygen to them, and help protect them from disease, such as infection.
The brain stem is the part of the brain connected to the spinal cord. It is in the lowest part of the brain, just above the back of the neck. The brain stem is the part of the brain that controls breathing, heart rate, and the nerves and muscles used in seeing, hearing, walking, talking, and eating. Most childhood brain stem gliomas are pontine gliomas, which form in a part of the brain stem called the pons.
|Anatomy of the brain, showing the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, and other parts of the brain.
||Anatomy of the inside of the brain, showing the pineal and pituitary glands, optic nerve, ventricles (with cerebrospinal fluid shown in blue), and other parts of the brain.
Brain tumors are the third most common type of cancer in children.
This summary refers to the treatment of primary brain tumors (tumors that begin in the brain). Treatment for metastatic brain tumors, which are tumors formed by cancer cells that begin in other parts of the body and spread to the brain, is not discussed in this summary.
Brain tumors can occur in both children and adults; however, treatment for children may be different than treatment for adults. See the following PDQ treatment summaries for more information:
- Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors Treatment Overview
- Adult Brain Tumors Treatment
Brain tumors may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
Benign brain tumors grow and press on nearby areas of the brain. They rarely spread into other tissues. Malignant brain tumors are likely to grow quickly and spread into other brain tissue. When a tumor grows into or presses on an area of the brain, it may stop that part of the brain from working the way it should. Both benign and malignant brain tumors can cause signs and symptoms and need treatment.