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Treatment for pineal region tumours

The treatment for a tumour in the pineal gland depends on the type of tumour it is and the age of the person. The pineal gland is in the centre of the brain and tumours in this area may block the brain's fluid drainage channels. This can lead to a build up of fluid and an increased pressure in the brain called hydrocephalus. 

Surgery is usually carried out to allow the fluid to flow properly again and to take a sample of cells (biopsy) to find out the type of tumour. Surgery to try and remove as much of the tumour as possible is rarely carried out because surgery in this area of the brain is very risky and difficult. So after surgery, your specialist will probably suggest radiotherapy treatment and possibly chemotherapy.

The aim of the radiotherapy is to kill any cells left behind to try to stop the tumour coming back. If you can't have surgery for any reason, you may have radiotherapy on its own.

Pineal region germ cell tumours

Germ cell tumours can occur in the pineal region. The most common type is germinoma but other types include embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac tumour and teratoma. They produce chemicals that can be measured in the blood and can be diagnosed by blood tests or tests on the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. 

If you have a germ cell pineal tumour, you are likely to need a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Radiotherapy often works very well for this type of tumour and it may even disappear altogether. If not, some people go on to have surgery.

 

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Pineal gland tumours

The treatment for a tumour in the pineal gland depends on the type of tumour it is and the age of the person.

There are 2 main types

  • Tumours that start from pineal gland cells (the most common type is pineoblastoma)
  • Germ cell tumours

The pineal gland is in the centre of the brain and tumours in this area may block the brain's fluid drainage channels. This can lead to a build up of fluid and an increased pressure in the brain called hydrocephalus.

 

Surgery for pineal gland tumours

Surgery is usually carried out to allow the fluid to flow properly again and to reduce the pressure in the brain. The surgeon also usually takes a sample of cells (biopsy) to find out the type of tumour.

It is not usually possible to remove the tumour completely because surgery in the pineal area of the brain is too difficult.

 

Treatment for non germ cell pineal gland tumours

For pineal tumours that are not germ cell tumours, your specialist will probably suggest radiotherapy and possibly chemotherapy after surgery. The aim of these treatments is to kill any tumour cells that have been left behind and stop the tumour coming back.

If you can't have surgery for any reason, you may have radiotherapy on its own. You may have a type of very precisely targeted radiotherapy called stereotactic radiotherapy.

 

Pineal region germ cell tumours

Germ cell tumours can occur in the pineal region. The most common type is germinoma but other types include embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac tumour and teratoma. 

These tumours produce chemicals that can be measured in the blood or in the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid). You may have blood tests or a sample of your cerebrospinal fluid taken by lumbar puncture

Chemicals that these tumours may produce include alfa fetoprotein (AFP), human choriogonadotropic hormone (HCG) and placental alkaline phosphate (PAP). 

If you have a germ cell pineal tumour, you are likely to need a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The exact treatment depends on the type of tumour. Radiotherapy often works very well and the tumour may even disappear altogether. If not, some people may go on to have surgery to remove the remaining tumour. 

Specialists use different combinations of chemotherapy drugs but you may have one of the following:

 

More information about pineal tumour treatment

If you would like more information about pineal tumour treatment you may find it in our section about brain tumour treatment.

You can find information about the outlook (prognosis) for these tumours on the brain tumour statistics and outlook page

You are also welcome to contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. Lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 

You can contact one of the brain tumour organisations or look at our brain tumour reading list. If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum.

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Updated: 13 December 2013