Craniofacial tumors in children may appear at birth or later and are caused by the atypical growth of cells. In most cases, such tumors occur at random with no specific cause. Tumors of the head or face can occur in the mouth, on the bone, skin, or soft tissue and usually appear as bumps, lumps, or areas of abnormal growth. Symptoms vary depending on the type of tumor but can include swelling and the appearance of outgrowths that can be seen and felt on the face or head. Tumors may also displace or disrupt the normal development and function of facial features.

Most tumors in children are not cancerous, but some have the potential to become cancers over time.

Types of pediatric craniofacial tumors include:

  • Cystic hygroma, a rare type of cyst, usually in the head or neck, that results from a blockage in the lymphatic system.
  • Dermoid cyst, a mass made up of different types of skin-related cells.
  • Fibrous dysplasia, a noncancerous tumor of the bone of the face or skull. These tumors typically grow slowly and are present from birth.
  • Hemangioma, the most common type of tumor to occur in children.
  • Neurofibromas, rarely cancerous growths on or around nerve tissue. These tumors, which can develop anywhere in the nervous system, may cause soft bumps under the skin.


Our team of specialists cooperates to evaluate and diagnose each child’s condition and uses a team approach to design an appropriate treatment plan. Diagnosis is guided by findings from lab tests, imaging systems, such as MRI scans, a complete physical exam, and an assessment of the patient’s health and family history.


The North Carolina Cleft and Craniofacial Center’s multidisciplinary approach continues with treatment. Physicians from multiple specialties, including surgery, oncology, dentistry, and dermatology, may consult depending on the type and location of a child’s tumor. Treatments may include laser therapy, sclerotherapy (injecting solutions into a vein), medications, chemotherapy, and radiation. Plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery may also be necessary to remove the tumor or improve appearance or functionality.


Tumors of the head and face can present unique challenges for children and families, which is why the North Carolina Cleft and Craniofacial Center team takes a holistic approach to address concerns about your child’s physical and psychological health. From the initial consultation through treatment and recovery, children receive continued supportive services, including regular monitoring, physical and occupational therapy, and psychosocial support.