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What Happens To Untreated Pediatric Brain Tumors & When To Go To Doctor?

Pediatric brain tumors when diagnosed and treated early show excellent prognosis however untreated conditions can be life-threatening.1

The average survival time for untreated brain tumors typically varies between 12-18 months and suffer long-term impairment to intellectual and neurological function.2

Brain tumors developed on the surface of the brain can cause seizures, when you see your children suffering from seizures even when laughing, it is important to check with your pediatrician immediately.3,4

What Happens To Untreated Pediatric Brain Tumors?

In some cases, treatment may not be necessary, but the condition is different from one patient to another. Every case is often dependent on few factors such as the age, symptoms, and size of the tumor. Some tumors show no signs until they’re big and then produce a severe, rapid deterioration in health.

When the patient is young and the tumor is small, just monitoring is done to assess that the tumor is not growing. However slow-growing tumors can produce symptoms such as headaches, seizure, nausea & vomiting, exhaustion, personal & mental activity changes, coma & death when the condition is left untreated.1

Cancer-related morbidity and mortality in children are common with the primary source of cancer and the survival rates have considerably increased due to improvements in diagnosis and neurosurgical techniques. However, when the tumor is benign and slow-growing, the brain won’t be able to tolerate and the symptoms continue to increase which can turn life-threatening.

When the size of the tumor enlarges and If left untreated, hydrocephalus can produce brain damage and even death. The neurosurgeon may use a shunt to redirect the spinal fluid away from the brain and, consequently, decrease the pressure.

Gliomas are cancerous and likely to spread, when this condition left untreated may grow and press on other structures within the brain. The pressure caused on the brain can be harmful as it instigates pressure on the skull leading to damage and hampering its ability to function properly. This eventually reduces the function that can lead to long-lasting brain damage or, if left untreated, death.2

When To Go To Doctor For Pediatric Brain Tumors?

The way brain and spinal cord tumors are diagnosed and treated typically varies based on the severity of the disease and location of the tumor. When your child has symptoms associated with brain tumors, please see your healthcare providers for details specific to your child.

For instance, headaches and seizures are classic symptoms of pediatric brain tumors, so when actions cause seizures, you should see a doctor. The cause of the seizure may be due to a tumor or any other reason therefore your doctor may evaluate to identify the correct reason.

A child diagnosed with a brain tumor should be treated by a multidisciplinary team with advanced training and extensive experience in brain tumors to ensure that your child gets the very best treatment available. If a tumor is found, most children need surgery.3,4

Brain tumors are masses of abnormal cells that can be primary or metastatic. Although rare in children, it represents the second most common cause of cancer found in children, after leukemia. Brain tumor treatments and outcomes are often dependent on the location of the tumor within the nervous system, and other factors.

However certain types of brain tumors such as medulloblastoma or ependymoma are noticed more common in children between the ages 5 and 9.


  1. Mostoufi-Moab, Sogol, and Adda Grimberg. “Pediatric Brain Tumor Treatment: Growth Consequences and Their Management.” Pediatric Endocrinology Reviews : PER, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4148717/
  2. “Brain Tumors (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by Rupal Christine Gupta, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, July 2016, kidshealth.org/en/parents/brn-tumors.html
  3. “Brain Tumors in Children 8 Warning Signs You Should Know.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, Pediatric Brain Tumor Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/brain-tumor/brain-tumors-in-children-8-warning-signs-you-should-know
  4. “Brain Tumors.” Seattle Children’s Hospital, Doctors Who Treat Pediatric Brain Tumors, www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/brain-tumors/

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 22, 2021

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