Childhood brain stem gliomas occur when glial brain cells form cancerous or noncancerous tumors in brain stem tissue, reports the National Cancer Institute. The two types are low-grade or focal gliomas and diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas. As of 2015 scientists do not know what causes most childhood brain tumors. Signs and symptoms differ between patients but include the inability to move one side of the body or face, behavioral changes, and lethargy.
The brain stem is the section of the brain above the back of the neck that connects it to the spinal cord, explains the National Cancer Institute. Glial cells keep nerve cells in position while nourishing them and protecting them from infections. Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas grow quickly and spread throughout the brain stem. Physicians find them difficult to treat, and children with them have limited chances of recovery. Low-grade or focal gliomas are easier to treat, grow slowly in one location in the brain stem, and have greater chances of recovery.
Brain stem glioma signs and symptoms vary depending on a tumor's size, speed of growth, location in the brain, and whether it has spread throughout the brain stem. A child's age and stage of development also affect signs and symptoms, notes the National Cancer Institute.