What is a brain stem glioma?

Brain stem gliomas are tumors that arise from glial cells within the brain stem. Glial cells, which are also called astrocytes,are a type of support tissue cell. These tumors may interfere with the function of cranial nerves, which originate in the brain stem. Eye movements, facial movements, and swallowing may be affected. These tumors represent 10 to 15 percent of childhood brain tumors and occur most frequently in children over ten years old.

What are the symptoms of a brain stem glioma?

Symptoms may include abnormal positioning of one eye, facial paralysis on one side, swallowing difficulties, double vision, and a decrease in coordination. Occasionally, there are personality changes such as irritability or depression.

How is a brain stem glioma diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a brain stem glioma is made through an MRI scan. The brain stem glioma's location can be seen on the scan.

How is a brain stem glioma treated?

The brain stem contains many vital structures, and for this reason surgical removal of the tumor is almost always impossible. Rarely, a biopsy may be done to confirm the diagnosis, but in most cases this is not possible. Treatment consists primarily of radiation to the tumor. Chemotherapy may be used as well.

About treatment for brain stem glioma at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota

Our cancer and blood disorders program consistently achieves results to rank it in the top ten programs in the United States. Children's treats the majority of children with cancer and blood disorders in Minnesota and provides patients with access to a variety of clinical trials of groundbreaking new treatments. Through our renowned program, patients experience unparalleled family support, a nationally recognized pain management team, and compassionate, coordinated care.

Contact us

If you are a family member looking for a Children's hematologist or oncologist or wanting to schedule an appointment, please call our clinic at Children's – Minneapolis at (612) 813-5940.

If you are a health professional looking for consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free) and ask for the on-call hematologist/oncologist