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Brain tumors in children occur in the central nervous system (CNS) and spinal cord. Together, these important organs control functions necessary to sustain life, such as breathing, heart rate, movement, thinking and learning. Important substances produced in the brain stimulate and control many other organs in the body. When pediatric brain tumors develop, they have many unique properties and symptoms.
Typical symptoms of CNS tumors are directly related to the location of the tumor, how fast it is growing and any associated tissue swelling that occurs in conjunction with the tumor. Parents often are the first to notice symptoms related to the development of a CNS tumor. Occasionally, the child’s teacher or physician may note signs and symptoms that are worrisome.
In most cases, surgery will be performed once the location of the tumor is precisely defined. The purpose of the surgery is to obtain a portion of the tumor for the pathologist to examine carefully under the microscope. This is necessary to make the correct diagnosis and to plan subsequent treatment. The surgeon will attempt to remove as much of the tumor as possible, without damaging any normal adjacent brain tissue.
Caucasian children are more likely than African American children to develop a medulloblastoma or ependymoma. Other types of brain tumors affect Caucasian and African American children equally. Differences in other ethnic groups have not yet been identified.
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