Brain Tumors in Children

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Symptoms of a Pediatric Brain Tumor

Since there are so many different types of brain tumors in children, the symptoms will vary. But what brain tumors generally have in common is that they take up space and put pressure on surrounding tissue and block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). That pressure can lead to these common symptoms:

  • headache 
  • nausea or vomiting (usually in the morning) 
  • personality changes 
  • irritability or depression
  • drowsiness or lethargy

When a child has a brain tumor in the front of the brain (the cerebrum), symptoms may include:

  • seizures
  • vision problems
  • slurred speech
  • paralysis or weakness on half of the body or face
  • drowsiness and/or confusion


When a child has a brain tumor in the brainstem, symptoms may include:

  • clumsiness or difficulty walking
  • respiratory problems
  • seizures
  • double vision or other vision problems
  • paralysis or weakness on half of the body or face

 

When a child has a brain tumor in the back of the brain (the cerebellum, which controls movement and balance), symptoms may include:

  • uncoordinated movement
  • problems walking
  • lack of coordination and balance
  • trouble with fine motor control, including handwriting
  • difficulty swallowing


Of course, not every child with a headache or episodes of clumsiness has a brain tumor. Since the symptoms of a brain tumor can be vague and can be the same as symptoms of other conditions, a child showing any of these neurological symptoms should be evaluated first by your pediatrician. The pediatrician may order further tests or refer the child to a neurologist or neurological surgeon for further evaluation.  If you need an evaluation, you may request an appointment using our online form.

For more information about specific pediatric brain tumors, see our index on the Children’s Brain Tumor Program page.

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Greenfield, M.D., Ph.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: January 2015