Pineal gland tumours are an extremely rare occurrence; only 15 cases of pineal gland tumour have been reported worldwide. Recently, HCG had the opportunity to observe this rare disease when it treated a 14-year-old girl from Africa with a pineal gland tumour. Dr PS Sridhar, radiation oncologist from HCG, was the one who treated the patient successfully. DNA chats up with the doctor to know more about the disease.
What are the symptoms of pineal gland tumour?
The pineal gland is located deep in the brain in the mid-line. The symptoms occur mainly due to the blockage of Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF). Usually a patient with pineal gland tumour suffers from headaches, nausea and vomiting, seizures, memory disturbances and visual changes.
What are the long-term consequences?
Consequences are mainly because of direct extension and blockage of CSF flow. Hydrocyphalus (enlargement of ventricles), permanent visual loss, impairment of eye movements are some of the long-term consequences. The patient may even die if proper timely intervention is not made.
What is the function of the pineal gland and how does a tumour in the region affect the functioning of the body?
This gland is the centre for the production of the hormone melatonin. While the exact function of melatonin is not known, it is implicated in a wide range of human activities. It regulates daily body rhythms, most notably the day/night cycle (circadian rhythms).
Melatonin is released in the dark, during sleep. Melatonin has been shown to inhibit the growth and metastasis of some tumours in experimental animals, and may therefore play a role in cancer inhibition. Removal of the pineal gland and/or reduction in melatonin output has been implicated in the increased incidence of breast cancer in laboratory animals. Patients who have breast cancer have lower levels of melatonin in the blood. The hormone has also been shown to be protective against genetic damage and it has a stimulatory effect on the immune system.
What were the complications related to this 14-year-old girl from Africa?
This particular girl was diagnosed with inoperable low grade gliaoma of the pineal gland, which is very rare. So, according to the literature available, radiation was the only treatment which she underwent successfully. The symptoms improved after the treatment. She will be followed up regularly.