Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Brain tumors (Pediatric)

What is a brain tumor?

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumors in children. Approximately 2,200 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with a central nervous system cancer each year. Most central nervous system cancers are brain tumors. Brain tumors, either malignant or benign, are tumors that originate in the cells of the brain. A tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue.

A benign tumor does not contain cancer cells and usually, once removed, does not recur. Most benign brain tumors have clear borders, meaning they do not invade surrounding tissue. These tumors can, however, cause symptoms similar to cancerous tumors because of their size and location in the brain.

Malignant brain tumors contain cancer cells. Malignant brain tumors are usually fast growing and invade surrounding tissue. Malignant brain tumors very rarely spread to other areas of the body, but may recur after treatment. Sometimes, brain tumors that are not cancer are called malignant because of their size and location, and the damage they can do to vital functions of the brain.

Brain tumors can occur at any age. Brain tumors that occur in infants and children are very different from adult brain tumors, both in terms of the type of cells and the responsiveness to treatment.