Early symptoms of a brain tumor can be misleading, as the symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other common problems. For example, headache can be experienced due to migraines or sinus infections. Moreover, there exist several types of brain tumors. Therefore, signs of this type of tumor in children can be vague or dramatic, depending upon the type, size, and location of the tumor.
Types of Brain Tumors Found in Children
These tumors can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). They can be confined to a specific region or they may invade neighboring tissues and spread into other parts of the body. Cancerous tumors can be primary (those originated in the brain) or secondary (those originated somewhere else in the body and spread into the brain). Development of primary tumors is more common in children. Gliomas, tumors that begin in glial cells are the primary tumors that are most common in children. Astrocytoma, brain stem glioma and ependymoma (tumors in the lining of the ventricles or in the central canal inside the spinal cord) are the types of gliomas.
Pineoblastoma (rare malignant tumor that develops from the cells of the pineal gland, situated near the center of the head and brain), craniopharyngioma (benign tumor that develops near the pituitary gland), medulloblastoma (tumors in the lower part of the brain called the cerebellum), and germ cell tumors (found in the center of the brain) are some other types of tumors that are observed in children. Since cerebellum regulates body movement, balance, posture, and coordination, medulloblastomas can affect these features. Thus, the symptoms may vary depending upon the type of the tumor.
Growing tumors in the brain create pressure on nerves and tissues, which results in headache and other symptoms. Damaged areas in the brain exhibit characteristic symptoms. The various symptoms observed in children are:
- Headaches (the child may suffer from headache even while sleeping)
- Increased severity of headache, while changing the body position or while waking up in the morning
- Worsening of the headache, while coughing or exercising
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures, muscle jerking, or twitching
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Confusion and lack of concentration
- Double vision or sudden vision problems
- Increased weakness or numbness
- Memory loss
- Increased sleep with or without dizziness
- Difficulty while speaking
- Gradual loss of movement or sensation in an arm or leg
- Losing balance of the body, difficulty standing up or walking
- Changes in mood and personality
Many times, some of the aforementioned signs are considered as signs of migraines, school phobia, loss of appetite, or other common problems. This may make the diagnosis of the tumor difficult, hence, parents should always pay attention to any symptoms that may develop in their child. These symptoms need prompt medical attention and only an expert doctor can diagnose this condition. Early diagnosis of the condition may help in getting prompt treatment.
CT scan, MRI scan, or a biopsy can help diagnose this condition in time. The doctor examines the physical symptoms and checks the personal and family history of the patient, before diagnosis. The specimen taken during the biopsy helps in determining the grade of the tumor. Grading in turn helps design the correct treatment. Higher grade tumors are aggressive and grow faster, while lower grade tumors grow slowly. Tumors are classified according to the location within the brain, their appearance, and behavior. The treatment involves chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to kill the cancerous cells or surgical removal of the tumor (if possible). The treatment, however, may vary according to the age and overall health of the child.
The symptoms of this condition may get overlooked, as they may be misinterpreted as the symptoms of other common conditions, like migraines. The treatment becomes difficult, when the cancerous tumors grow in numbers and size. Hence, parents should carefully monitor the behavioral and cognitive changes in their children. If the child suddenly develops speech problems, vision, or hearing problems, then parents should immediately consult a doctor. If a child complains about constant headache or headache while lying down, or bending down, then parents should immediately contact their doctor.
Since a small child won't be able to speak out the changes that he/she is experiencing, it is the parent's responsibility to check whether the child is having any health problem.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.