Condition 101 About Brain Stem Cancer

What is the definition of Brain Stem Cancer?

Brainstem cancers are usually astrocytomas or gliomas that are classified by their location in different areas of the brainstem and include focal brainstem gliomas, diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG), and diffuse midline gliomas. Depending on the type and location, brainstem cancers may progress slowly or rapidly, range from grades I–IV, and may occur in children and adults.

What are the symptoms for Brain Stem Cancer?

The brainstem controls such critical functions as swallowing, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and the muscles and nerves that control talking, eating, walking, hearing, and seeing. For this reason, the signs and symptoms of brainstem cancer may include headache, nausea and vomiting, balance problems, numbness or weakness of the limbs, facial paralysis, double vision, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and difficulty talking. Symptoms may come on suddenly and progress rapidly within a day or so, while some patients may experience no symptoms at all or symptoms that slowly progress.

What are the current treatments for Brain Stem Cancer?

While some patients may be initially placed under observation until signs and symptoms appear, treatment of brainstem gliomas include surgery, radiation therapy (external or internal), chemotherapy, and cerebrospinal fluid diversion. Surgery may not always be possible due to the tumor’s location in the brainstem, in which case radiation treatment is started. Chemotherapy may be added to radiation therapy or administered after. Cerebrospinal fluid diversion involves the use of a shunt implanted in a ventricle of the brain to siphon off excess fluid from the brain. New targeted therapies for the treatment of brainstem gliomas are currently under investigation.

Advocacy Organizations

Keep Punching, Inc., supports patients, healthcare providers, and researchers in their fight to prevent and eradicate brain cancer and minimize treatment-related side effects that may adversely impact function and comfort.

Latest Advances On Brain Stem Cancer

  • Condition: Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma
  • Journal: Medicine
  • Treatment Used: Hypofractionated Radiotherapy Versus Conventional Radiotherapy
  • Number of Patients: 184
  • Published —
In this study, researchers compared the outcomes of hypofractionated radiotherapy versus conventional radiotherapy for the treatment of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
  • Condition: Focal Brainstem Glioma
  • Journal: Medicine
  • Treatment Used: Various
  • Number of Patients: 63
  • Published —
In this study, researchers sought to determine the best treatment for focal brainstem gliomas in children.

Clinical Trials For Brain Stem Cancer