The exact causes of brain cancer is children is unknown, but there are several factors that physicians and researchers believe could lead to the development of cancerous tissue in the brain. A young child or a fetus exposed to radiation or chemotherapy treatments could be more likely to develop brain cancer. The use of certain pesticides, chemicals, and other household materials has been linked to the development of brain cancer in children. Some scientists and physicians believe that children with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Down syndrome, neurofibromatosis, or other genetic conditions are more at risk of developing a malignant brain tumor. Unlike brain cancer in adults, which is usually the result of a cancer that has traveled to the brain from another location, brain cancer in children is usually caused by a type of primary brain cancer that originates in the cells or tissue of the brain.
Brain tumors occur because of a defect in or the transformation of a gene or chromosome. The mutation can cause the cells to grow at a higher than normal rate, replicating and reproducing the defective cells that form a tumor. There are various different types of primary brain cancer that develop in both children and adults.
Gliomas are tumors that form in the cells of the brain, and is the most common type of brain cancer in children. Meningiomas are another common type of brain cancer that initially forms in the linings of the spinal cord or brain. Pituitary tumors, ependymomas, optic nerve tumors, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors can also cause brain cancer. Brain cancer is the second most common type of cancer in children, and a leading cause of death of children in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The symptoms of brain cancer in children are varied and may be associated with other normal childhood conditions. Tumor growth can make the pressure in the child’s brain to increase, causing headaches, nausea, and changes in the child’s disposition. Seizures or changes in the child’s vision are also common. A decrease in coordination may be experienced, making it difficult for the child to walk, eat, or play. Facial expressions and speech could also be affected.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments will be suggested for children depending on his or her age. Surgical removal of the cancerous tissue is usually attempted, but depending on the location of the tumor, this may be difficult. Fluid may build up in the brain, causing inflammation and pressure, so a physician may recommend that a shunt be inserted to drain the excess fluid.