What Is Tectal Glioma?
Tectal glioma is a slow-growing brain tumor in the tectum (or roof of the brain stem), which controls vital body functions such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
- Tectal glioma is a low-grade glioma.
- Despite originating in a critical part of the body, tectal glioma has a very high cure rate. The long-term prognosis is usually excellent.
- Most children with tectal glioma develop these brain tumors between the ages of three and sixteen.
- Tectal glioma tends to develop spontaneously, which means that no known environmental or genetic factor that doctors suspect could have caused the tumor to grow.
At Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, our pediatric brain tumor specialists have extensive expertise in treating all types of gliomas, including tectal glioma. Your child will receive care from a team of pediatric neuro-oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, and radiation oncologists through our Childhood Glioma Program, part of our comprehensive Brain Tumor Center.
Symptoms of Childhood Tectal Glioma
Tectal glioma symptoms might mimic those of other, more common ailments. Since these tumors grow relatively slowly, your child may see the doctor with problems that have been occurring for many months. Or symptoms may come on rapidly.
While symptoms vary from child to child, the most common include:
- Indications of increased pressure in the brain, including headache (usually upon awakening in the morning), vomiting, and fatigue
- Abnormal eye movements
- Difficulty walking
Because many of these symptoms can also point to other conditions, it's important to have your child evaluated by a qualified medical professional as soon as possible.
How We Diagnose Childhood Tectal Glioma
The first step in effective treatment is an accurate diagnosis. We use a combination of diagnostic tools, including a medical history review, physical and neurological examinations, imaging studies, and a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Your child’s doctor will discuss the results and outline the most effective treatment options with you as quickly as possible.
How We Treat Childhood Tectal Glioma
Treatment generally focuses on relieving symptoms caused by increased pressure within the brain and monitoring the tumor for growth or complications. Relieving cranial pressure is usually all a patient needs for a good prognosis.
Our experts address intracranial pressure by:
- Shunt: We surgically insert a device to drain excess fluid from your child's body.
- Endoscopic third ventriculostomy: It’s an alternative to a shunt in which the surgeon creates a pathway to drain fluid into the brain's third ventricle.
- Oral steroid: We may use a steroid called dexamethasone to relieve pressure.
We may recommend chemotherapy as a follow-up treatment in some situations. We typically avoid radiation therapy for the majority of children with tectal gliomas.
We will continue to follow your child to monitor progressive disease using MRI scans (about every three months to start). Spinal fluid diversion has a high cure rate and is sufficient therapy for the majority of patients.
Ongoing care and support are also available through our extensive pediatric cancer survivorship programs, including the Stop & Shop Family Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Outcomes Clinic for pediatric brain tumor survivors. These services address health and social issues, ranging from motor function evaluation and physical therapy to return-to-school and learning programs.