Why Choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for Pineal Tumor Treatment?
If you have a pineal tumor, we strongly encourage you to come to our hospital, where our skillful and experienced medical professionals will design a personalized treatment plan for you. Since 1969, we have been providing quality healthcare to the community of Los Angeles, and we will strive to restore your health and increase your quality of life. By choosing Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital for pineal tumor treatment, you will receive the healthcare you need in a warm and compassionate environment.
The pineal gland is the fundamental endocrine organ that releases hormones such as melatonin and regulates circadian rhythms. It is located deeply in the middle of your head and is surrounded by your brain. Pineal tumors are very rare, accounting for 0.5% to 1.6% of all brain tumors. Children and people under 40 are most susceptible to developing a pineal tumor.
It is worthy of note that while some pineal tumors are benign, others are malignant. The World Health Organization has a grading system for pineal tumors, from grade I to grade IV. Accordingly, grade I pineal tumors grow slowly, whereas grade IV pineal tumors are very aggressive and spread rapidly to other parts of the head and neck.
Even if they are not malignant, pineal tumors can still cause health issues in people who have them, which means that they always require treatment. Every year, approximately 108 people in the United States receive a diagnosis of pineal tumor. The five-year survival rate for this diagnosis is nearly 70%.
The treatment you will receive for pineal tumors highly depends on the size and type of the tumor, even if it has spread to adjacent parts of your brain, your general health, age, and preferences. Because pineal tumors are rare, it may be difficult for medical professionals to diagnose them correctly. For this reason, if you suspect this is your diagnosis, you may want to visit another medical specialist for a second opinion, which will help you better understand your treatment options.
Surgery is often required to treat a pineal tumor. During the surgery, you will have your pineal tumor removed, as well as the tissue to which it has spread, if this is possible. You may need to undergo chemotherapy or radiotherapy following surgery if you have a malignant pineal tumor to ensure no cancerous cells remain in your brain after the procedure.
After surgery, you may have a small plastic tube, medically known as a shunt, placed in your skull, which will drain excess cerebrospinal fluid. This will also help lower the pressure in your head and alleviate your symptoms.
However, pineal tumors may be very challenging to remove through surgery. They are located deep inside the brain, and the risk of damaging your brain during such a procedure is high. Therefore, some patients with pineal tumors will have to undergo stereotactic radiosurgery, which does not call for any incisions in your skull. This treatment entails the surgeon using a computer to help them focus high-powered radiation on the exact area of the tumor.
It is essential to go to follow-up appointments after your pineal tumor disappeared, as there is a risk of it returning over several months or even years.
There are five types of pineal tumors, depending on the particularities of the cells involved, namely:
- pineocytoma: as a pineal tumor that occurs mainly between the ages of 20 and 64, pineocytoma tends to grow slowly, and people with this diagnosis usually have a good prognosis
- pineal parenchymal tumor: these are papillary pineal tumors that may occur at any age, and they spread at a moderate pace
- papillary pineal tumor: these are also pineal tumors that tend to grow and spread at a moderate pace
- pineoblastoma: this type of pineal tumors are the rarest, as well as the most aggressive, and are nearly always malignant, affecting primarily people under the age of 20
- mixed pineal tumor: this type of pineal tumor contains both cells that grow slowly and cells that spread at a fast pace
Symptoms of Pineal Tumors
People with rapidly growing pineal tumors experience the worst symptoms. The most common symptoms of pineal tumors are:
Diagnosis of Pineal Tumors
The diagnostic process of pineal tumors begins with your doctor asking you about your medical family history and about the symptoms you are experiencing. They will subsequently conduct a physical exam which includes a neurological exam, during which they will assess your reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, and coordination.
If they suspect you have a pineal tumor, they will order some of the following tests and exams:
- MRI scan: this diagnostic procedure uses a large magnet and radio waves to provide your physician with clear brain images, which will help them see whether there is a tumor on your pineal gland
- biopsy: during a biopsy, the surgeon will collect a small amount of tissue from your tumor, which will subsequently be sent to a laboratory to be examined by a pathologist under the microscope to determine the type of pineal tumor, as well as the grade of the tumor
- lumbar puncture: the test, also known as a spinal tap, implies the doctor collecting a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid with the help of a thin and hollow needle, and the sample will then be analyzed for malignant cells and other relevant substances
- blood tests: the purpose of blood tests is to measure the levels of melatonin in your blood, which will be low, if you have a pineal tumor
While medical researchers have not yet found the exact cause of pineal tumors, they believe specific gene mutations are involved and that exposure to radiation in the head area may increase the risk of developing a pineal tumor. Furthermore, environmental factors may play a role in developing pineal tumors.
Since medical professionals are unsure about what causes pineal tumors, the only way you can lower your chances of developing one is to limit your exposure to radiation in the head area or, if you work with radiation, always wear adequate protective equipment.