If a tumor starts in the brain it is known as a primary brain cancer as opposed to secondary brain cancer, which is a result of tumors from other parts of the body spreading to the brain. In children primary brain cancer occurs when the cancer develops in the tissues of the brain. The tumor could be located in only a small area or have spread to other areas. It might be benign or malignant.
Physicians have not yet determined what causes brain cancer in children and what the risk factors could be. However, if a child’s head has been exposed to radiation in any form, especially when treating other types of cancer, then her risk of developing brain cancer is high. If there is a family history of brain cancer and the mutated gene passes onto a child then the risk factor exists. These are general risk factors. A lack of specific factors means there is actually no way to prevent a child from developing brain cancer.
There are some symptoms that you need to look out for that may lead you to suspect brain cancer. If a child has frequent headaches, suffers from an acute loss of memory, and is unable to concentrate; if her speech slurs or there are changes in vision and hearing; if she has suddenly uncoordinated movements and is unable to walk or balance steadily; if she has seizures or nausea: all these can indicate brain cancer. In addition, if she feels either a numb feeling or a tingling in her limbs or exhibits personality changes then you must take her to a physician. Fever and weakness may also be present.
These are all symptoms that you have to be on the lookout for as very young children will not be able to describe them in detail. Babies may not grow properly and may always be weak. You will need to observe them and take the necessary steps—brain cancer could be indicated but there could also be some other disease present.
The pediatrician or pediatric oncologist will perform a physical examination of the child and then, based on the symptoms, recommend a CT scan, an MRI, an angiogram, or a spinal tap. He may also suggest a biopsy, but this depends on the location of the tumor. If he does diagnose brain cancer then the standard treatments will apply, that is, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. He will take into account the child’s age and general health before suggesting one of the treatments. Surgery is essential for primary brain tumors and the entire tumor may be removed. However, if the tumor is deep inside the brain the surgeon will debulk or reduce its size to the extent possible.
Be aware of the symptoms, and take immediate steps if you have even an inkling that your child is suffering from them. Take her to a physician at once so treatment can start sooner than later.