Studies show that the symptoms of brain tumor in children are often overlooked and misinterpreted as signs of sinusitis or even migraines. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help increase the life expectancy of these children. Scroll down to know why such symptoms in children are often neglected…
Teenagers often have fever, and they often complain about headache and vision problems too. These being common symptoms of various diseases and disorders, are likely to be overlooked. Parents should know that these can be the early symptoms of a tumor developing in the brain of the child, and so should not be neglected. Brain tumors can be benign or malignant. So one should not panic on diagnosis of such tumor. Some tumors grow slowly while some grow aggressively, and invade the adjoining tissues. Brain being the important organ which controls each and every activity performed by the body, a growing tumor in the brain exhibits several symptoms.
There exist several types of brain tumors depending upon their location within the brain and growing pattern. Amongst those types, astrocytomas, brain stem glioma, and ependymoma are the most common types of gliomas seen in teenagers.
- Ependymomas: These are the tumors that develop in the lining of the ventricles of the brain, or in the central canal inside the spinal cord.
- Gilomas: These are the tumors that originate in the glial cells, the cells that are used by the body to build myelin, the insulating sheath around nerves. These nonconducting cells are referred to as support cells in the nervous system, and they protect neurons from injury or damage.
- Astrocytomas: These originate in the astrocyte cells, a sub-type of glial cells.
As there is limited space in the brain, tumors can destroy the vital tissues, and create excess pressure in the brain. Swelling and accumulation of fluid around the tumor (known as edema) can also exhibit certain symptoms. Some tumors grow so slowly that they take years to exhibit the symptoms.
Adults generally suffer from secondary brain cancer (tumor originated in some other organ, and then spread into brain) while children usually develop primary brain tumors.
- Frequent headaches
- Pain in the neck and arms
- Vision problems like blurred vision, double vision, loss of vision, etc.
- Becoming increasingly forgetful, memory loss
- Headache while bending
- Headache that worsens in the morning
- Worsening of headache while coughing or exercising
- Neck pain, making the person stoop
- Bone pain, lethargy, excessive weakness
- General discomfort, not feeling well
- Undetermined weight loss
- Nausea, vomiting
- Achy legs and arms
- Numbness, tingling sensation, loss of sensation in the arms or legs
- Seizures (convulsions)
- Stumbling or lack of coordination in walking
- Drowsiness, abnormal eye movements
- Behavioral changes, changes in personality, depression
- Slurred speech
- Increased sleep
- Losing control over some muscles.
The teenager can recover more quickly if the symptoms are taken seriously from the start. Sometimes, teachers or parents consider these signs (for example, forgetfulness, constantly complaining about headache, etc.) as excuses or carelessness of the boy/girl. The symptoms being non-specific are more likely to be misdiagnosed with conditions like migraines, excessive stress, etc.
As the tumor grows, it creates pressure on the nerves which results in headaches. The symptoms vary according to the place where the tumor grows. If it affects the center which controls vision, then vision problems are noticed. If it affects the center which governs speech, or which regulates movement of the limbs, then symptoms like slurred speech or restricted movement of the limbs are seen respectively. A tumor can even block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, and lead to accumulation of the fluid in the ventricles.
Various tests like CT scan or MRI help detect the tumors. If the tumor is cancerous, the treatment mainly involves surgical removal of the tumor (if possible), chemotherapy, and radiation to kill the cancerous cells, pain killers to help alleviate the pain, etc. Physical therapy may help assist the patient in improving his performance if he has lost his control over limbs.
If the patient has developed vision problems, he should see an eye specialist. Thus the treatment may vary according to the symptoms or severity of the symptoms. Although brain tumors are not common amongst teenagers, recognizing the early signs of the tumor can help increase the survival rate significantly.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.