These tumors originate from normal cells in the pineal gland. The pineal gland is located in the center of the brain and creates the neurotransmitters melatonin and serotonin. Tumors in this region can be of a wide variety of types; the most common are germ cell tumors, which arise from developmental abnormalities, and pineal cell tumors, which come from the cells of the pineal gland itself.
Symptoms are most often caused by blockage of the cerebrospinal fluid flow and problems with the eye movement pathways. Headache, nausea and vomiting, and double vision are common.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans primarily are used. They can show the size and characteristics of the tumor, and can indicate the presence of hydrocephalus. Computed tomography (CT) scans, which can help detect the presence of calcification or hardening in the tumor, also are used.
Standard treatment for these kinds of tumors is radiation therapy. Radiation of the entire brain and spinal cord is recommended in patients with pineoblastoma. Chemotherapy may also be considered, particularly if the tumor has spread or if it regrows.
Surgery may be possible in some individuals to determine the tumor type and remove part of the tumor. In some cases, placement of a shunt (similar to a drain) is used to relieve pressure caused by buildup of cerebrospinal fluid.