What is a brain and spinal cord tumor?

A brain and spinal cord tumor, also known as a central nervous system (CNS) tumor, is an abnormal growth that occurs in any part of the brain or spinal cord. CNS tumors are the second most common pediatric cancer, after leukemia, and the most common solid tumor of childhood. The cause of most CNS tumors is unknown. Brain tumors are not contagious, and nothing you have done or not done is responsible for your child's tumor.

There are two main types of tumors: benign and malignant. Benign tumors are slow growing and rarely spread. Generally benign tumors can be completely removed. Malignant tumors are usually rapid growing, invasive and life threatening. Management of any tumor differs according to factors like the patient's age, the tumor location and the kinds of cells that make up the tumor.

Types of brain and spinal tumors

Symptoms of brain and spinal tumors

Symptoms of brain and spinal tumors can be very subtle and can wax and wane over weeks and months, or symptoms can be much more intense and dramatic. Common symptoms of brain and spinal tumors may include any of the following:

  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Back or neck pain
  • Failure to thrive
  • Headaches
  • Hydrocephalus, or fluid in the brain
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Difficulty with walking
  • Double vision
  • Loss of developmental milestones in infants and toddlers
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness