Skip to Content

Brain Tumors in Children


A brain tumor

is a mass that grows in your child's brain, or in an area near the brain. Examples include nerves in your child's skull, his pituitary gland, or the membranes that cover his brain. The tumor may start in your child's brain or travel to his brain from another body area. There are many kinds of brain tumors. Each kind is named for where it begins and what it does in the brain. A tumor may be malignant (cancer), or benign (not cancer). It may grow quickly or slowly.

Brain Anatomy

Common signs and symptoms of a brain tumor:

Signs and symptoms will depend on the kind of tumor your child has, and where it is in the brain. In children, tumors usually start in a part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. Your child may have any of the following:

  • Problems speaking clearly, swallowing, or walking
  • Headaches along with vomiting, especially in the morning
  • Areas that are weak or numb in an arm or leg, or loss of balance
  • Vision problems, such as blurred or double vision
  • Confusion, personality changes, or seizures
  • Irritability or lack of energy
  • Trouble with school work
  • More hunger than usual
  • Bladder or bowel control problems
  • Bulging fontanelles (soft spots) in infants

Call 911 if:

  • Your child's arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has new problems walking or moving one side of his body.
  • Your child has new or worsening headaches or body swelling.
  • Your child has a seizure.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


will depend on the type of tumor your child has and where it is located. Your child's age and health will also help guide treatment. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to lower your child's risk for seizures, or to reduce swelling. This may help relieve symptoms such as headaches. Hormone medicine may also be given if a part of the brain that produces hormones is affected. Your child may also need blood thinners to prevent a blood clot. A brain tumor can increase the risk for blood clots.
  • Chemotherapy is medicine to help kill cancer cells. The medicine is usually given through an IV.
  • Radiation is used to help treat brain tumors and to prevent new tumors from forming. Radiation is usually not given to children younger than 3 years. This is because radiation can damage a developing brain.
  • Surgery may be used to remove the tumor. This is done if the tumor is in an area where surgery can be done safely. During surgery, such as craniotomy, healthcare providers will open your child's skull and remove the tumor. Surgery is used for both malignant and benign tumors. Any brain tumor can grow into another part of the brain and destroy healthy brain tissue. The goal of surgery is to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
  • Radiosurgery targets cancer cells without harming healthy brain tissue. Your child may need radiosurgery if he has more than one tumor or if he cannot have open surgery, such as a craniotomy.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Support your child. A brain tumor can change the way your child acts, thinks, and feels. His memory, concentration, and ability to learn may decline. He may act without thinking or become more emotional. Talk with family and friends about these changes and about continuing care, treatments, and home services. Take your child to all follow-up appointments. Your child may also need to work with a tutor if he has trouble with schoolwork.
  • Have your child rest as needed. He may need more rest than usual, especially after cancer treatment.
  • Do not let your adolescent smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause brain and lung damage. Ask his healthcare provider for information if he currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your adolescent's healthcare provider before he uses these products.
  • Have your child eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, nuts, and cooked beans. Have your child eat small meals if he has any nausea. Ask if he needs to be on a special diet.
  • Have your child exercise as directed. Exercise can increase your child's energy and help keep his immune system strong. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much exercises he needs and which exercises are best for him.
  • Take your child to physical, occupational, or speech therapy as directed. A physical therapist can help your child build muscle strength and coordination. An occupational therapist can help your child find ways to do daily activities more easily. A speech therapist can help you if your child's tumor caused problems with speaking.

For support and more information:

  • American Brain Tumor Association
    8550 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, Suite 550
    Chicago , IL 60631
    Phone: 1- 800 - 886-2282
    Web Address:

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Your child's healthcare provider may suggest tests such as an MRI or PET scan every 3 months. These tests help check for new or returning tumors. Work with your child's healthcare providers to create a follow-up care plan that is right for your child.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Brain Tumors in Children (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.