A brain tumor is one of the most common cancers in children. About 95 of the almost 350 children and adolescents who get cancer every year have a brain tumor. But there are many different types of brain tumors that are also treated differently. The brain is part of the central nervous system. All central nervous system tumors are taken care of by pediatric neurologists and pediatric oncologists, including non-cancerous tumors.
Most brain tumors in children do not spread through metastases but grow only in one place. The treatment is to remove the tumor. Many children get well, but complications of treatment are common. How severe these complications depend on where in the brain or the rest of the central nervous system the tumor is located and what treatment the child is receiving.
Symptoms of a brain tumor in children
Some children may have had headaches or vomiting frequently and inexplicably, often in the morning when they wake up. Other children may just have been very tired for a shorter or longer time and have had difficulty keeping up with their everyday life or schoolwork. Symptoms in young children may be that they are late in development and appear to feel poor or have difficulty eating. One symptom may also be that the head grows faster than expected. Sometimes you see it yourself as a parent, other times it is discovered during a check on BVC. The symptoms can thus vary greatly depending on the age of the child and the location of the tumor.
If a doctor suspects that the symptoms may be due to cancer, the child may have a computer tomography or a magnetic camera examination. Young children may need to be anesthetized for anesthesia because they have to lie completely still. The studies do not hurt. The computed tomography only takes a few minutes. A magnetic camera examination takes longer and for those who are awake can be perceived as strenuous because the camera sounds a lot.
Treatment for a brain tumor in children
The most common is that the tumor is removed by surgery. Sometimes the doctor first needs to take a sample, a so-called biopsy, from the tumor to be completely sure of what kind of tumor it is.
The family and the child must meet the doctor who will perform the surgery to know how the operation is going and to be able to ask questions before the treatment.
After the operation, a treatment conference with various specialists assesses whether any further treatment for brain tumors in children is needed or not. It depends on what kind of tumor it is and where it sits, whether the entire tumor could be removed or not, and the child’s age. The continued treatment can sometimes be a new operation, radiotherapy or cytostatic treatment. Some children receive a combination of several treatments.
Treating a growing brain provides various short and long term complications for most children. Sometimes the complications are not noticed much. Some children get quite severe complications that can affect life for a long time. Radiation therapy is the main cause of complications, apart from the tumor itself. It is common for the levels of various hormones to be affected so that, for example, the child grows more slowly after treatment. It is also common for children to have impaired mobility and learning ability can also be affected.
Part of the follow-up care after treatment for brain tumors is about giving the child support and help to develop as well as possible. A neuropsychological examination can show which functions the child may need extra support with.
All children may go on post-check-ups quite often for several years, partly to find out if the disease is coming back, and partly to see how the body works and develops after treatment. If you have received radiotherapy you need to be followed up for the rest of your life but at different long intervals. This also applies to certain treatments with cytostatic drugs.