Brain Cancer (Child)
Brain Cancer (Child)
Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells that take over neighbouring cells and tissues and, at later stages, also spread to organs. When such cells start in thebrain or spinal cord, they cause brain cancer. However, not all cancer cells are malignant. Some are benign. That is, they may grow in size but do not spread and invade other cells.Brain tumors in children are more likely to start in the lower parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum and brain stem, than they are in adults. But they can start in the upper parts of the brain as well.
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Increased pressure in the brain due to both, benign and/or malignant tumours can lead to general symptoms such as:
- Crossed eyes or blurred vision
- Balance problems
- Behavior changes
- Drowsiness or even coma
Clear causes for Brain and Spinal Cord tumours are still debatable. However, certain risk factors have been recognized.
Excessive Radiation exposure
Inherited and genetic conditions: People with inherited tumor syndromes often have many tumors that start when they are young. Some of the more well-known syndromes include:
- Neurofibromatosis type 1 (von Recklinghausen disease)
- Neurofibromatosis type 2
- Tuberous sclerosis
- Von Hippel-Lindau disease
- Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- Gorlin syndrome (basal cell nevus syndrome)
- Turcot syndrome
- Cowden syndrome
- Hereditary retinoblastoma
- Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome
- Some families may have genetic disorders that are not well recognized or that could even be unique to a particular family.
“Other than exposure to radiation, there are no known lifestyle-related or environmental causes of brain and spinal cord tumors in children, so at this time there is no way to protect against most of these cancers.” (cancer.org)
Most tumors in the brain or spinal cord do not usually spread. Hence, they are not formally staged. Some of the most important factors that determine your child’s prognosis include:
- The type of tumor
- The grade of the tumor
- The location and size of the tumor
- How much of the tumor can be removed by surgery
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s functional level
- Whether or not the tumor has spread through the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to other parts of the brain or spinal cord
- Whether or not tumor cells have spread beyond the central nervous system
Needless to say, if the cancer is detected while it is still in Stage I, survival rate is higher. The rate decreases progressively with the increase in stage. Stage III is considered critical, while stage IV is, more often than not, fatal.
|Type of Tumor||5-Year Survival Rate|
|Pilocytic astrocytoma||About 95%|
|Fibrillary (diffuse) astrocytoma||About 80% to 85%|
|Anaplastic astrocytoma||About 30%|
|Oligodendroglioma||About 90% to 95%|
|Ependymoma/anaplastic ependymoma||About 75%|
|PNETs (includes medulloblastoma and pineoblastoma)||About 60% to 65%|
However, medicine is evolving everyday to meet these challenges and to keep you happy, healthy and alive!
At this time there are no widely recommended screening tests for most children to look for brain or spinal cord tumors before they start to cause symptoms. These tumoursare usually detected as a result of signs or symptoms the child is having. However, through genetic tests, one may find out whether one is at an increased risk of developing Brain Cancer. If yes, the doctor might suggest other tests to detect the Cancer early.
Based on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, primary treatment options include:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
- Other drug treatments
Treatment is based on the type of tumor and other factors, and often more than one type of treatment is used. Discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your treatment team to help make the decision that best fits your needs. Also, it is a good idea to get a second opinion from a doctor who has dealt with the kind of cancer your child has.
If your child has any of the symptoms, please do visit the doctor. A genetic test would also help.