Brain Tumor Locations have an impact into the naming of the brain tumor. Pediatric Low Grade Astrocytomas (PLGAs) are found in all parts of the brain and in many cases are lodged deep within the brain structure. Often times, these deep-seated tumors are named for both the type of cell from which it came, as well as for the location in the brain in which it was originally found. The most common brain tumors are named according to their location in the brain:

  1. Brainstem tumors
  2. Cerebellar tumors
  3. Hemispheric (including frontal, temporal, parietal, insular) tumors
  4. Diencenphalic (thalamic/hypothalamic) tumors
  5. Optic Pathway tumors
  6. Disseminated tumors

A more comprehensive study of general brain anatomy is useful in understanding brain tumor locations. Optic pathway tumors require specific optic pathway perspective of the brain.

Unfortunately, the peak incidence of these infiltrating PLGAs is usually in children less than five years of age. Because a child’s brain tumor can be located near centers for vital signs, thought, emotion, movement and sensory development, the side effects of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can be devastating. Children can also experience critical, long-term neurologic impairments and other side effects.

Brain Tumor Name Confusion
Many parents have asked the question, “Why does one doctor call a tumor an ‘optic glioma’ and another doctor calls the same tumor a ‘juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA)’? Is it just to drive parents crazy?”

Often the answer to this lies in the type of physician speaking. Pathologists tend to classify brain tumors by cell types, whereas neurosurgeons and radiologists tend to identify brain tumors based on the brain tumor location. For a neurosurgeon it would be much more important to know if the tumor is an optic glioma or a seizure causing temporal glioma in making decisions whether to consider surgery. In fact neurosurgeons typically will not know the cellular pathology until they do the surgery. In order to communicate with one another there has to be terms used for these tumors when the pathology is not known.

It would be beneficial for parents to know both the location of their child’s brain tumor (PLGA) and the pathologic classification of the brain tumor -if possible. In understanding symptoms, complications, treatment options and prognosis, parents may find more in common with others who share a similar glioma location over a specific PLGA type. For example those with the location of an optic pathway glioma, whether it is a PMA or JPA, will find more in common than a parent of a child with an optic glioma (usually unresectable) conversing with a parent of a child with a cerebellar pilocytic astrocytoma (often cured with surgery alone).

The bottom line is that the same brain tumor may be a low grade glioma or a pilocytic astrocytoma or an optic glioma. All can be termed the same — and depending on the scenario, tumor location can be much more important than type of glioma. As with other real estate, low grade gliomas come down to location, location, location. The brain tumor location is key.

All content on this page has been provided as a courtesy to the pediatric brain tumor community by AKBTC Foundation.