A brain tumor is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in the brain. Many different types of brain tumors exist. Some brain tumors are noncancerous (benign), and some brain tumors are cancerous (malignant). Brain tumors can begin in your brain (primary brain tumors), or cancer can begin in other parts of your body and spread to your brain (secondary, or metastatic, brain tumors). How quickly a brain tumor grows can vary greatly. The growth rate as well as location of a brain tumor determines how it will affect the function of your nervous system.
Astrocytoma is a type of cancer that can form in the brain or spinal cord. Astrocytoma begins in cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells. Signs and symptoms depend on the location of the tumor. Astrocytomas that occur in the brain can cause seizures, headaches and nausea. Astrocytomas that occur in the spinal cord can cause weakness and disability in the area affected by the growing tumor. Astrocytoma can be a slow-growing tumor, or it can be an aggressive cancer that grows quickly. The aggressiveness (grade) of the astrocytoma determines the prognosis and treatment options.
Resources: St. Jude - Astrocytoma
Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor - Embryonal tumors of the central nervous system are cancerous (malignant) tumors that start in the fetal (embryonic) cells in the brain. Embryonal tumors can occur at any age, but most often occur in babies and young children. Types of embryonal tumors include:
- Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors. These rare, cancerous tumors are most often found in the cerebellum of infants and children under 3 years of age.
- Other embryonal tumors. A category called embryonal tumors not otherwise specified includes most cancerous tumors that were formerly called primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs), occurring in the brain and spinal cord.
Resources: St. Jude - Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor
Craniopharyngioma is a rare type of noncancerous (benign) brain tumor that begins near the brain's pituitary gland, which secretes hormones that control many body functions. As the tumor slowly grows, it can affect the function of the pituitary gland and other nearby structures in the brain. Craniopharyngioma can occur at any age, but it occurs most often in children and older adults. Children with craniopharyngioma may grow slowly and may be smaller than expected.
Resources: St. Jude - Craniopharyngioma
Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) starts in the brain stem, the part of the brain just above the back of the neck and connected to the spine. The brain stem controls breathing, heart rate and the nerves and muscles that help us see, hear, walk, talk and eat. These tumors are called gliomas because they grow from glial cells, a type of supportive cell in the brain. DIPG falls into a staging system of least severe to most severe.
Resources: St. Jude - Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma
Ependymoma is a type of tumor that can form in the brain or spinal cord. It begins in the ependymal cells in the brain and spinal cord that line the passageways where the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) that nourishes brain flows. Ependymoma can occur at any age, but most often occurs in young children.
Resources: St. Jude - Ependymoma
Ganglioglioma are rare tumors found in the brain and spinal cord. They grow from groups of nerve cells (ganglion cells) and supportive cells (glial cells) in the central nervous system (CNS). Most gangliogliomas occur in children and young adults. They account for less than 2 percent of all CNS tumors. Gangliogliomas tend to be small, low grade tumors that do not spread. However, they can sometimes be malignant, higher grade tumors.
Resources: St. Jude - Ganglioglioma
Germ Cell Tumors (Brain) - Intracranial germ cell tumors (GCT) are rare tumors that develop in the brain. They are most often diagnosed in children and young adults. These tumors account for about 3-5 percent of childhood brain tumors. Germ cell tumors most often develop in one of two brain regions: pineal or suprasellar.
Resources: St. Jude - Germ Cell Tumors (Brain)
Medulloblastoma is the most common type of embryonal tumor, these fast-growing cancerous brain tumors start in the lower back part of the brain, called the cerebellum. The cerebellum is involved in muscle coordination, balance and movement. Medulloblastomas tend to spread through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to other areas around the brain and spinal cord, though they rarely spread to other areas of the body.
Resources: St. Jude - Medulloblastoma
Optic Pathway Tumors - An optic nerve glioma is a type of brain tumor. Most optic nerve gliomas are considered low-grade and don’t grow as quickly as other types of brain tumors. They are found in the optic chiasm, where the left and right optic nerves cross. They are also referred to as optic glioma or juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma. It is a rare kind of cancer that’s typically slow growing and found in children. It is rarely found in individuals over the age of 20.
Resources: St. Jude - Optic Pathway Tumors
Pineoblastoma is a rare, aggressive type of cancer that begins in the cells of the brain's pineal gland, which is located in the center of the brain and produces a hormone (melatonin) that plays a role in the natural sleep-wake cycle. Pineoblastoma can occur at any age, but it tends to occur most often in young children. It may cause headaches, sleepiness and subtle changes in the way the eyes move. Pineoblastoma can be very difficult to treat. It can spread within the brain and the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) around the brain, but it rarely spreads beyond the central nervous system.
Resources: St. Jude - Pineoblastoma
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It is the most common cancer in children and adolescents. About 3,500-4,000 are diagnosed with childhood leukemia in the U.S. each year.
Resources: St. Jude - Leukemia
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. It develops from cells called lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell central to the immune system, or from lymphoblasts, an immature type of lymphocyte. It can spread throughout the body to other organs, such as the liver, spleen and lymph nodes through the blood. But it does not normally produce tumors as do many types of cancer. It is an acute type of leukemia, which means it can progress quickly. Without treatment, it can be fatal within a few months.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a type of blood cancer that usually begins in cells that turn into white blood cells. Sometimes, though, AML can start in other types of blood-forming cells.
Acute myeloid leukemia starts in the bone marrow. This is the soft inner parts of bones.
With acute types of leukemia such as AML, bone marrow cells don't mature the way they're supposed to. These immature cells, often called blast cells, keep building up.
Other names for acute myeloid leukemia includes: Acute myelocytic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, acute granulocytic leukemia and acute non-lymphocytic leukemia.
Without treatment, AML can quickly be life-threatening. Because it's "acute," this type of leukemia can spread quickly to the blood and to other parts of the body.
Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Chronic means it develops slowly over time. So it may be weeks or months before children develop symptoms. In contrast, acute leukemias make children ill very quickly because symptoms develop rapidly.
CML is very rare in children and makes up about 3 percent of pediatric cancers.Resources: St. Jude - Chronic Myeloid Leukemia | St. Jude - Infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is a network of nodes, glands and vessels that transports lymphocytes throughout the body.
Resources: St. Jude - Lymphoma
Hodgkin Lymphoma — formerly known as Hodgkin's disease — is a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. It may affect people of any age, but is most common in people between 20 and 40 years old and those over 55.
In Hodgkin lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread. It is one of two common types of cancers of the lymphatic system. The other type, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, is far more common.Resources: St. Jude - Hodgkin Lymphoma | Children's Oncology Group
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma is cancer that originates in your lymphatic system, the disease-fighting network spread throughout your body. In non-Hodgkin lymphoma, tumors develop from lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell. It is more common than the other general type of lymphoma — Hodgkin lymphoma. Many different subtypes of non-Hodgkin lymphoma exist. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma are among the most common subtypes.
Soft Tissue and Solid Tumors
Adrenocortical Tumor (ACT) is a rare tumor of the adrenal gland. These tumors can range from benign tumors to aggressive, malignant cancers. Other names for ACT are adrenocortical cancer, cancer of the adrenal cortex, adrenocortical adenoma, and adrenocortical carcinoma.
The adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney. The outer layer of the adrenal gland is called the adrenal cortex. The job of the adrenal glands is to produce hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone. Adrenocortical cancer is very rare in children.
Resources: St. Jude - Adrenocortical Tumor
Ewing (YOO-ing) Sarcoma is a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or in the soft tissue around the bones. This cancer most often begins in the long bones of the pelvis, legs or arms, but it can occur in any bone. Less often, Ewing sarcoma starts in the soft tissues of the arms, legs, abdomen or other locations. It is more common in teenagers and young adults, but it can occur at any age.
- Germ Cell Tumors (Extracranial) are growths that form from reproductive cells. Tumors may be cancerous or noncancerous. Most germ cell tumors that are cancerous occur as cancer of the testicles (testicular cancer) or cancer of the ovaries (ovarian cancer). Some germ cell tumors occur in other areas of the body, such as the abdomen, brain and chest, though it's not clear why. Germ cell tumors that occur in places other than the testicles and ovaries (extragonadal germ cell tumors) are very rare. The tumors tend to respond to treatment and many can be cured, even when diagnosed at a late stage.
Kidney tumors (Wilm’s) is a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. Also known as nephroblastoma, it's the most common cancer of the kidneys in children. Wilms' tumor most often affects children ages 3 to 4 and becomes much less common after age 5. Wilms' tumor most often occurs in just one kidney, though it can sometimes be found in both kidneys at the same time. Over the years, advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of Wilms' tumor have greatly improved the prognosis for children with this disease.
Liver Cancers (Hepatoblastoma) begins in the cells of the liver, a football-sized organ that sits in the upper right portion of the abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above the stomach. Several types of cancer can form in the liver. The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the main type of liver cell (hepatocyte). Other types of liver cancer, such as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, are much less common.
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin — the pigment that gives skin its color. Melanoma can also form in the eyes and, rarely, in internal organs, such as the intestines. The exact cause of all melanomas isn't clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases the risk of developing melanoma. The risk of melanoma seems to be increasing in people under 40, especially women.
Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body. It most commonly arises in and around the adrenal glands, which have similar origins to nerve cells and sit atop the kidneys. However, neuroblastoma can also develop in other areas of the abdomen and in the chest, neck and near the spine, where groups of nerve cells exist.Neuroblastoma most commonly affects children age 5 or younger, though it may rarely occur in older children.
Osteosarcoma - Though rare, osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer, which begins in cells that form bones. In very rare instances, it occurs in soft tissue outside the bone. Osteosarcoma is most often found in the long bones — more often the legs, but sometimes the arms — but it can start in any bone. Osteosarcoma tends to occur in teenagers and young adults, but it can also occur in younger children and older adults. Treatment usually involves chemotherapy and surgery.
Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that begins in the retina — the sensitive lining on the inside of the eye. Retinoblastoma most commonly affects young children, but can rarely occur in adults. A rare form of eye cancer, retinoblastoma is the most common form of cancer affecting the eye in children. Retinoblastoma may occur in one or both eyes
Soft Tissue Sarcomas (Rhabdomyosarcomas) is a rare type of cancer that begins in the tissues that connect, support and surround other body structures. This includes muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons and the lining of the joints. More than 50 subtypes of soft tissue sarcoma exist. Some types are more likely to affect children, while others affect mostly adults. These tumors can be difficult to diagnose because they may be mistaken for many other types of growths. Soft tissue sarcoma can occur anywhere in your body, but the most common types occur in the arms and legs, and in the abdomen.
- Thyroid Tumors - Thyroid cancer occurs in the cells of the thyroid — a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight. Most cases of thyroid cancer can be cured with treatment.