Pineal tumours are tumours that occur in the pineal gland, which is located deep within the brain. The pineal gland is a tiny gland that helps regulate sleep patterns (circadian rhythms), hunger, thirst, sex drive and the biological clock along with the hypothalamus gland.
The exact cause of pineal tumours is unknown. These tumours block the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) found in the brain causing hydrocephalus (build-up of pressure). Common symptoms include change in vision, headache, vomiting, nausea, memory disturbances and seizures. Complications may include a life-threatening increase in intracranial pressure, requiring emergency medical attention.
Pineal tumours are diagnosed by performing a thorough neurological examination, checking your vision, balance, coordination, hearing and reflexes. Your doctor may order tests such as MRI and CT scans, angiogram (X-ray sensitive dye is injected into the blood vessels), head and skull X-rays and other brain scans to determine the diagnosis. To confirm on the diagnosis, a biopsy is performed, where a small hole is drilled into your skull, a needle is inserted and tissue is removed for examination in the lab.
Treatment involves surgical removal for benign pineal tumours. Malignant tumour treatment depends on the type of tumour and can include surgery, radiation therapy (uses high beam of radiations to destroy the cancer cells), chemotherapy (uses drugs to kill the cancer cells), or a combination of both chemo and radiotherapy. Stereotactic radiosurgery, a non-invasive treatment, may sometimes be indicated, where high-energy gamma radiation is directed at the tumour site to destroy the tumour cells.