“What is my child’s prognosis?” This seemingly simple but critical question is often among the first that parents will ask their child’s oncologist after hearing that their child has been diagnosed with cancer.
Yet, while the question may be simple, answering it can be extremely complicated. In general terms, oncologists can provide statistics relating to 5-year survival rates for many different types of brain tumours in children.
These general statistics, however, cannot predict an outcome for any one child. Each child’s individual prognosis will depend on the unique circumstances of their tumor and its response to treatment.
Any time a child is diagnosed with a brain tumour or, truth be told, any type of cancer, the most obvious question many parents ask is “Why? What caused my child to develop a brain tumour?”
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question.
Scientists now believe that the vast majority of brain tumours in children are the result of random gene mutations but have no satisfying answer as to why a particular gene mutation occurred or why it led to the growth of a brain tumour.
Whether benign or malignant, a tumour grows when certain cells grow, divide, and replicate more quickly than normal cells and/or they do not die when they are aged or damaged. These abnormal cells then begin to build up in the brain, forming clumps or a mass, and eventually growing large enough to press on or cause damage to the healthy brain tissue.
Over the course of young Dimas Lamp’s nine years of life, he’s gone through some pretty tough times.
Dimas was diagnosed with brain cancer on March 24th, 2017. Dimas had to undergo numerous MRIs, a spinal tap, x-rays, and two brain surgeries.
Dimas was not about to let brain cancer get the better of him though, and this past Saturday at the 10th annual Freedom’s Run, Dimas ran with a purpose: spreading awareness of childhood cancer. He finished with a time of 41 minutes, 54 seconds, proudly crossed the finish line after what he thought was a hard race, especially the hills.
While he didn’t train specifically for Freedom’s Run, Dimas, who is from Shepherdstown, used the local race as preparation for the Every Child 5K on Oct. 20 at Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C.
Dimas is part of the Brain Tumor Trouncers team, and every dollar raised by his team will benefit the neuro-oncology discovery fund, helping brain tumour research at the Children’s National Hospital.
Brain tumours are hard to treat. But even this is a harrowing understatement for some forms of the disease.
Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is one such example. These rare brain tumours almost exclusively affect children, and they’re invariably fatal.
“Almost all children with DIPG sadly die within a couple of years of diagnosis,” says Professor Chris Jones from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, a Cancer Research UK-funded expert on the disease.
“There aren’t any effective treatments.”
One of the main reasons that the outlook for DIPG is so poor is down to where it grows in the brain. These tumours start in the brainstem, which lies at the base of the brain and hooks up the spinal cord with deeper brain regions. This crucial piece of machinery controls many of the body’s vital processes, such as breathing and our heart beat.
That means surgery – a cornerstone treatment for many cancers – is out of the question. Drugs are also notoriously ineffective for brain tumours, because most are shut out by the protective blood brain barrier.
What do you do when you receive the shocking and unwelcome news that your child has cancer? What do you need? How do you handle it?
What do you do or say when the child of a friend has been diagnosed with cancer? How do you support them best?
What do you say and what should you never, never, EVER say to the parent of a child with cancer?
It is difficult to know what to say even to an adult who has been diagnosed with cancer, let alone to a child or the parent of a child with cancer…
The following was written by the mother of a child with cancer to let everyone know how she felt and what is cool and what is not cool to say to someone whose child has cancer… we hope that it will be of some help to those who have just heard that a friend or family member’s child has just been diagnosed with cancer and the family is about to face the battle of their lives….
Children may not experience the same brain tumour side effects and symptoms as adults.
Because their brains and bodies are still growing, they may experience symptoms and side effects that are unique to their age and stage of development.
Children, adolescents and young adults with brain tumors generally experience various side-effects from brain cancer, including Physical Side Effects, Eating and Nutrition Issues, Changes in Physical Appearance, Cognitive and Emotional Side Effects, as well as Long-Term or Late Effects.
Neurocognitive problems are an unfortunate potential side effect of childhood brain tumours. These can vary widely, and can affect intellectual ability, academic achievement, memory and attention.
Potential problems can be assessed by a pediatric neuro-psychologist who can help determine the types of issues that need to be addressed and their treatments.
During the diagnosis and treatment of a brain tumour, your child may be asking, “When can I go back to school?”
Going back to school after months of treatment can be a cause for celebration.
Children and young adults gain a sense of accomplishment and peer support from school, and long absences and changes in learning abilities can interrupt this positive interaction.
In addition, returning to school is a process that needs care, attention and support by you as a parent, and also by the child’s teachers, school social worker and principal.
Changes in appearance and cognitive abilities can affect self-esteem, create depression and anxiety and lead to frustration. So, although it’s important to return to school, it’s also critical to be aware of what your child may experience and ways you can help.
A risk-factor is anything that affects a person’s chance of getting a disease such as brain cancer.
Different types of cancer have different risk factors, and this article only deals with the potential risk-factors for brain cancer.
Lifestyle-related risk-factors such as diet, body weight, physical activity, and tobacco use play a major role in many adult cancers, but these factors usually take many years to influence cancer risk, therefore logic says that they do not have much of a role in childhood cancers, including brain tumours.
Very few risk factors have been found for brain and spinal cord tumours. There is no clear cause for most of these tumours.
Nutrition is very important for Children with Cancer, because the presence of the tumour as well as the treatments that they undergo play havoc with their immune systems as well as various other systems in their little bodies.
A malignant tumour leads to changes in a child’s metabolism; their system is unable to regulate the expenditure of energy according to the reduced energy intake, leading to an ineffective use of nutrients and contributing to the development of malnutrition. Malnutrition can lead to lower survival rates in children with brain cancer.
Children with cancer, especially those with solid tumours, have reduced body protein stores due to whole body protein breakdown. This may occur as a result of the cancer itself, the treatment they are undergoing for their tumour, or complications of the disease.
Brain tumours are the most common solid tumour in children under the age of 15.
When discovered early enough, brain tumours are usually treatable. Many that are slow-growing are cured with surgery alone. Other types that are faster-growing might need additional treatment with radiation therapy or chemotherapy, or both.
Brain tumours are graded on a scale of 1 to 4, based on how malignant, or cancerous, they are – that is, how abnormal their cells appear under a microscope.
A grade of 1 is the least malignant, and 4 is the most malignant.
A tumour may contain cells of different grades, but it is classified by its highest-grade cells.
The purpose of the brain tumour grading system is to indicate the tumour’s likely growth rate and how likely it is to spread within the brain– information used in predicting outcomes and treatment planning.
Brain tumours are graded and classified by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Grades are often assigned to gliomas, which are tumours that develop in the supporting glial cells of the brain or spine. Gliomas make up about 30% of all brain and central nervous system tumours, and about 80% of all malignant brain tumours.
The most common malignant brain tumours are glioblastomas.