Childhood brain tumours

 In Australia, more than 100 children under 15 are diagnosed with a malignant brain or spinal cord tumour each year.1 Children are more likely to develop tumours in the lower part of the brain, which includes the areas that control sleep/wake functions, movement and coordination. Gliomas and medulloblastomas are the most common types.

In general, children diagnosed with a malignant tumour will have a better outlook than adults. In many children, treatment will cause all signs of the cancer to disappear (remission). Because a child’s nervous system is still developing, some children may have a physical, behavioural or learning disability as a result of the tumour or treatment.

Many health care professionals specialise in treating children and young adults (paediatrics). Some hospitals have staff, such as play therapists, music therapists or art therapists, who can help children cope with the challenges of treatment. Rehabilitation will also be important for your child’s recovery.

Talk to your child’s medical team about treatment options, what to expect, and your concerns. The hospital social worker can provide practical and emotional support.

Organisations like Camp Quality, CanTeen and Redkite offer support for families, young adults and children affected by cancer. Redkite offers a print and online picture book called Mary has a brain tumour that you can read with your child.

As a parent, it may be helpful to visit Talking to Kids About Cancer or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Listen to our podcast on Explaining Cancer to Kids


Children at school

School-aged children with brain tumours may benefit from tutoring as part of their rehabilitation. This may be available through the Ronald McDonald Learning Program or Redkite. Talk to the student welfare coordinator, school counsellor or principal at your child’s school and check that they have a copy of our Cancer in the School Community. The medical team can provide information on how the tumour and treatment may have affected your child.


This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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