Pineal cancer is cancer that forms in or around the pineal gland near the center of the brain. Pineal tumors are uncommon, accounting for about one percent of all brain tumors. There are several different types of pineal tumor, with different characteristics. Pineal tumors can be benign or malignant. They occur most often in children and young adults.
Pineal tumors can produce excess melatonin, a hormone that controls the waking and sleeping cycle. The most common symptoms of pineal tumors are headaches, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, double vision or eye paralysis, and memory problems. Sometimes pineal tumors produce early puberty, especially in boys. As a pineal tumor grows, it can block the ventricles, causing an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid. This condition is called hydrocephalus, commonly referred to as "water on the brain."
Surgery is the primary treatment, when possible. Radiation may also be used as a primary treatment in adults and children (but not infants or young toddlers). Chemotherapy may be given as well. A shunt is sometimes used to treat hydrocephalus.