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What are Pineal Tumors?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2019
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Pineal tumors are abnormal growths of cells that are located in the pineal gland in the brain. Growths in this area of the brain are rare, with only about one percent of brain tumors occurring in the pineal gland. They are typically more common in children than adults, however, they may occur at any age. The tumors may be benign, or non-cancerous, or they may be malignant. These growths often affect the function of the pineal gland.

The pineal gland is situated near the center of the brain. It is responsible for regulating the body's hormonal system. The gland also regulates the body's sleeping and waking cycles by the production of melatonin, a hormone.

There are different types of pineal tumors. For example, a pineoblastoma and a pineal germinoma are both malignant and aggressive tumors. Pineal cysts, on the other hand, may not require treatment unless they cause disturbing symptoms.

Some of the possible symptoms of pineal tumors include nausea, vomiting, and headaches. They can also cause memory problems, visual disturbances, and seizures. Some patients find that they are unable to look upward. Patients can also experience an unsteady gait and a lack of coordination. These symptoms are generally caused by the tumor's compression of other parts of the brain.

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Patients who exhibit possible signs of a brain tumor are usually subjected to imaging tests, such as X-rays or ultrasounds, for diagnosis. A doctor will likely administer an intravenous contrasting dye to make the tumor show up more clearly on the scan. Patients may also undergo a biopsy for a confirmation of the diagnosis. This procedure extracts a small sample of tissue for analysis.

The primary treatment for any kind of pineal tumor is surgery. Benign tumors can be removed, which should resolve the symptoms. For those that are malignant, a surgeon will typically remove as much of it as possible. If the tumor has caused an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, a tube may be placed to allow for drainage.

After undergoing surgery, patients with malignant pineal tumors should generally expect to undergo additional treatment. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy can help rid the body of any remaining cancer cells. In some cases, the patient may be treated with both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Typically, additional treatment is most successful for patients who have had as much of the tumor removed as possible.

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