Cancer Home > Brain Stem Glioma

A brain tumor that forms in the tissues of the brain stem is called brain stem glioma. It can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Symptoms of this tumor vary, depending on the child's age and where the tumor is located. Common symptoms can include loss of balance and difficulty walking, vision and hearing problems, or a headache that goes away after vomiting.

What Is Brain Stem Glioma?

Brain stem glioma is a type of brain tumor in which benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of the brain stem. The brain stem is the part of the brain that is connected to the spinal cord, located in the lowest part of the brain, just above the back of the neck. It controls breathing, heart rate, and nerves and muscles that are used to see, hear, walk, talk, and eat. Although cancer is rare in children, brain tumors are the most common type of childhood cancer, other than leukemia and lymphoma.
(Click Brain Cancer for more information about adult brain stem glioma.)

What Causes It?

No one knows the exact causes of brain stem glioma, and doctors can seldom explain why one person will get a tumor and another person will not.

Symptoms of Brain Stem Glioma

The symptoms of brain stem glioma vary, depending on the child's age and where the tumor is located. Common symptoms include:
  • Loss of balance and difficulty walking
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Morning headache or a headache that goes away after vomiting
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unusual sleepiness or change in energy level.
However, these possible symptoms are not sure signs of a brain tumor. Other health problems can also cause these symptoms. People who have potential symptoms of brain stem glioma should see a doctor as soon as possible, because only a doctor can diagnose and treat the problem.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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