Sign In
Cook Children's
Patient Portal

Brain and Spine Tumors

The most common tumors in children are found in the central nervous system, including those in the brain and spinal cord. There are many types of tumors and they each behave very differently. Tumors in children also differ from those found in adults.

There are tremendous differences among brain tumors in children; some have a very poor outlook while others can be cured with surgery alone. And, not all tumors of the brain or spine are cancerous, many are benign (noncancerous).

However, cancers of the central nervous system are the most frequent type of solid tumors in children, second only to the leukemias as the most common cancers in children. Each year in the U.S., 2,500-3,000 children are diagnosed with a tumor in the brain or spinal cord. Like most childhood cancers, the cause of these tumors is not known.

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors of childhood, as common as leukemia. They also among the most challenging to diagnose and treat.There are tremendous differences among brain tumors in children; some have a very poor outlook while others can be cured with surgery alone.

Fortunately, Cook Children's oncology and neuro-oncology specialistss are among the nation's finest when it comes to treating brain tumors. And they have access to some of the newest medicines and surgeries available.

Brain and spinal cord conditions

We treat brain and spinal cord tumors rom the rarest to the most common, including:

  • Brain tumors, including astrocytomas and other low-grade gliomas
  • Brainstem tumors
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Germinoma
  • High-grade glioma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • Optic tract tumors
  • Plexiform neurofibromas
  • Spinal cord tumors

The cause of most childhood brain and spinal cord tumors is unknown.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of childhood brain and spinal cord tumors are not the same in every child. Signs and symptoms depend on the following:

  • Where the tumor forms in the brain or spinal cord
  • The size of the tumor
  • How fast the tumor grows
  • The child's age and development

Signs and symptoms may be caused by childhood brain and spinal cord tumors or by other conditions, including cancer that has spread to the brain. Check with your child's doctor if your child has any of the following:

Brain Tumor Signs and Symptoms

  • Morning headache or headache that goes away after vomiting
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Vision, hearing, and speech problems
  • Loss of balance and trouble walking
  • Unusual sleepiness or change in activity level
  • Unusual changes in personality or behavior
  • Seizures
  • Increase in the head size (in infants)

Spinal Cord Tumor Signs and Symptoms

  • Back pain or pain that spreads from the back towards the arms or legs
  • A change in bowel habits or trouble urinating
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Trouble walking

In addition to these signs and symptoms of brain and spinal cord tumors, some children are unable to reach certain growth and development milestones such as sitting up, walking, and talking in sentences.

Our oncology and neuro-oncology teams work closely together to ensure that every child has the best care possible. That close collaboration includes our research teams so that clinical trials may be available to our patients.

Get more information about brain tumors
Learn about our brain and spine cord tumor clinic

We are here to help.

If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-4007.