The news of a child being diagnosed with brain tumor can be shocking for the parents. But the prognosis isn’t necessarily bleak. The following article provides information about the symptoms of brain tumor in children and the survival rate.
Abnormal growth of cells inside the brain is known as brain tumor. Statistics show that the number of children suffering from this condition is increasing significantly, as nearly 2,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with this type of tumor every year. Being the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in children under the age 15, it is necessary for the parents to know about the symptoms and types of this condition. Sometimes tumors from other parts of the body spread to the brain and are known as secondary tumors. Tumors that originate in the brain are referred to as primary tumors, and they may occur at any age. However, the exact cause of these tumors are unknown.
The main types of tumors in the brain are benign (not cancerous), invasive (spread to nearby areas), those confined to only a small area, and malignant (cancerous) tumors. The types are also determined according to the exact location of the tumor, the type of tissue involved, and whether or not it is cancerous. Most common brain tumors in children are:
- Astrocytomas: These are noncancerous, slow-growing cysts, which usually develop in children between the age of 5 – 8 years. These tumors can be removed by surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Slow growing tumors may be treated by radiation only.
- Brain stem gliomas: Brain stem refers to the lowest part of the brain, that is adjacent to the spinal cord. This part of the brain governs vital automatic functions, like heart rate, breathing, and several aspects of our basic senses, such as sight, hearing, and movements, including walking and eating. These tumors are generally seen only in children, and their development is usually noticed in about 6 year old children. These tumors can be asymptomatic in early stage and may grow very large before exhibiting the symptoms. Brain stem is situated deep in the brain and since it controls vital functions, surgery cannot be performed. Therefore, chemotherapy and radiation are the only options available.
- Ependymomas: The lining of the ventricle is known as ependyma, and tumors originating in the cells lining the ventricles and central canal inside the spinal cord are called ependymomas. They are more common in children less than 3 years of age, but when compared to other types, they are considered as one of the rare tumors in children. These tumors grow slowly, but obstruction of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) by them may result in complications. Tumors located at different locations may exhibit different type of symptoms. A CT scan or MRI can help find out the exact location of the tumor. Any of the three common options, i.e., surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy can be chosen depending upon the situation.
- Medulloblastomas: In children, medudulloblastomas are the most common type of brain cancer. The tumor generally develops in the lower back part of the brain called the cerebellum, which controls the body movement, balance, posture, and coordination. Occurrence of this tumor is more common in boys than girls of around 5 years of age. It has been observed that medulloblastomas mostly occurs before the age of 10. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the commonly followed methods for the treatment of these tumors.
- Germ cell tumors: These tumors arise from sex cells that travel to the brain. They are found in the center of the brain, and are present in the child’s body from the very beginning, when it started developing in the mother’s womb as a fetus. These cells under normal condition, are supposed to develop into cells, in the testicles or ovaries. But sometimes they are found in other parts of the developing body, including the brain. Surgery and radiation, with or without chemotherapy, are the treatment options.
The symptoms include:
- Headaches that occur even while sleeping, accompanied with vomiting or confusion.
- Double vision, weakness, or numbness.
- Worsening of the headache while waking up in the morning, while coughing, or exercising, or while changing the body position.
- Memory loss, seizures, lack of concentration, increased sleep, confusion, hearing loss, with or without dizziness
- Difficulty while speaking, gradual loss of movement or sensation in an arm or leg, losing balance of the body, and unexpected vision problem are some other symptoms of this condition.
The five year brain tumor survival rate for children and teenagers is around 65%, according to the available statistics. Studies show that, more than 50% of the people aged between fifteen and forty five years survive this condition for a considerable period of time. Parents should not lose hope after its detection in young children.
In children, this tumor can destroy brain cells by creating pressure on other parts of the brain. This results in swelling and increased pressure within the skull. In spite of all these difficulties, long-term results are becoming more common. There are examples of some children surviving fifty years and beyond. Improved chemotherapy and surgical techniques play an important role in increasing the life span of children affected with this condition.