Clinical hub

Brain cancers

Brain cancers are the second most common type of cancer in children.

Symptoms vary given the brain controls learning, memory, senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch), emotions, muscles, organs and blood vessels.

Treatment is more complex than other forms of cancer and surgery isn’t always possible due to the tumour being inaccessible or damaging critical parts around the brain.

Types of brain cancer


Fast growing, highly malignant and frequently spreads, invading other parts of the central nervous system. Accounts for the largest percentage of pediatric brain cancers and is more common in boys than girls, usually occuring between the ages of 2 and 6.


Arise from ‘ependyma,’ cells that line the fluid spaces of the brain and spinal cord. Although capable of malignant behavior, they are almost always benign and occur primarily in children and adolescents.


Arise from brain cells, which form part of the supportive system of the brain. Usually slow growing and many are considered curable.

Optical nerve gliomas

Slow growing tumours, which form along the optic nerves. Usually occur in children under the age of 10.

Brain stem glioma

Located in the brain stem and can be either slow or fast growing. Generally more common in children than adults. Surgery is usually not possible, with radiation and chemotherapy used instead.


Slow growing and located in the hemispheres of the brain, especially the frontal and temporal lobes. In children, they’re more common in the thalamus.


Slow growing and rarely malignant, these tumours can be located anywhere in the brain but are most often found in the temporal lobe. Occur most frequently in children and young adults.


Usually cystic and found primarily in children and adolescents, these tumours are benign.

Pineal region tumours

Germinoma (germ cell tumours) is most common, representing over one-third of the tumours in this region, and usually occurs in teenagers. Additional tumours found in this region include other embryonal type tumours, teratomas, astrocytomas, pineocytomas, and pineoblastomas.



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