Brain Tumors in Children

While brain tumors refer to a mass of abnormal cells in the brain, they may differ between adults and children. As the bodies and brains of children are still developing, their tumors are usually different from that seen in adults.

The most common form of solid tumors in kids are unfortunately brain tumors and form about 20% of all childhood cancers. These tumors behave differently than those found in adults and are treated differently too. The child’s age and health are strong determinants of the type of treatment offered to such children. The only good news here is that most kids have a comparatively better prognosis than adults with the same tumor.

Tumors can be classified based upon the tumor’s location, structure and rate of growth. Most tumors in children are primary tumors and originate at their point of location. They can also be classified according to their aggressiveness – whether cancerous or non-cancerous in nature.

The prognosis of tumors in children is based on their location, grade, size, speed of growth as well as the treatment options open to them. The age of the child is also another important factor affecting prognosis. Common childhood brain tumors include medulloblastoma, astrocytoma and ependymoma; they are named according to their location and type of cells affected. Of the above, the medulloblastoma is the most common type of childhood tumor. There are many more types of tumors to add to this list however.

Signs and symptoms of brain tumors are a little challenging to zero down upon as some very young children won’t know how to communicate their problems. The parent needs to keep a vigilant eye in all cases.

The most common symptom is the headache and its pattern and severity vary in those with brain tumors. The headache might also be accompanied by vomiting, loss of appetite or confusion. Some mental changes that can also be associated with brain tumors include changes in personality and behavior, problems with reasoning, speech difficulties, memory loss, inability to concentrate, irritability, hearing loss, increased sleep and gradual loss of movement in a limb. The child may also have problems with vision, balance, weakness or even seizures.
Diagnosis is usually with the aid of MRI and CT scans of the brain or examination of the spinal fluid.

Treatment is usually by surgical excision. Other measures like radiotherapy and chemotherapy may also be deployed depending upon the child’s health. Other supportive treatment options include the use of corticosteroids and diuretics to get rid of the brain swelling, pain medications and anticonvulsants. Physical and occupational therapy can also be provided to improve the quality of life.

Leave a reply