The term ‘pediatric brain tumors’ basically signify brain tumors that affect children and young teens in their adolescence period. These tumors usually arise due to growth and accumulation of abnormal and harmful cells in their brain and nearby areas. It is extremely crucial to diagnose and treat such tumors at the earliest. Otherwise, they may negatively impact normal functioning of nervous system as well as overall development of children. Parents must stay careful and seek a prompt medical opinion on observing any type of functional or behavioral abnormality in their children.
Types of Pediatric Brain Tumors
Pediatric brain tumors may be either benign or malignant in nature. Malignant pediatric brain tumors refer to tumors which are cancerous in nature. Whereas, benign tumors are non-cancerous in nature. The following list describes some major types of pediatric brain tumors.
- Astrocytomas – These brain tumors are the most common types of brain tumors that affect children. These tumors emerge when a serious abnormality occurs in formation of star-like cells in brain, known as ‘astrocytoma’.
- Medulloblastomas – These tumors are highly malignant and usually occur at the back portion of skull known as cerebellum. Cerebellum is primarily responsible for managing muscular activity of children. Therefore, medulloblastomas can considerably impact muscle coordination in children.
- Ependymomas – These tumors develop due to abnormalities in support cells present in brain and spinal cord of children.
- Choroid Plexus Tumors – These tumors are mostly found in ventricles around nervous system of children. They are vascular in nature (contain blood vessels) which makes them prone to bleed.
- Craniopharyngiomas – These tumors normally affect cells and tissues present near pituitary gland of children. They may result in serious neurological problems if left untreated.
- Pineal Region Tumors – As the name itself indicates, these tumor occur around pineal gland in brain of children. Pineal gland is mainly associated with regulation of reproductive hormones in children. It may affect sexual development of children during their growing years.
Causes and Symptoms of Pediatric Brain Tumors
Root cause behind occurrence of brain tumors in children is still a topic of research. However, medical practitioners believe that faulty genes may fuel up the possibility of pediatric brain tumors. Children may experience the given range of symptoms as abnormal cells begin to multiply in brain region.
- Frequent Headaches – Children may encounter problems like frequent headaches and seizures due to presence of an underlying brain tumor.
- Nausea or Vomiting – Children who experience nausea or vomiting sensation after eating regular meals need an apt medical diagnosis. It could be an indication of serious brain tumor.
- Weakness and Fatigue – Children who get tired easily and feel extreme weakness might be suffering from an undiscovered brain tumor. In such instances, parents must consult qualified neurosurgeons as early as possible.
- Behavioral Changes – Brain tumors may affect behavioral tendency of children. For example, children may find it difficult to concentrate and develop memory-related issues.
- Poor Coordination – Poor coordination is the primary indication of brain tumors in children. It may lead to significant balancing or walking problems in children.
- Eyesight Changes – Brain tumors in children may result in eyesight changes such as poor vision or double vision.
Parents must immediately consult experienced pediatric neurosurgeons for a precise diagnosis when such symptoms start to deteriorate quality of life of their beloved children.
Diagnosing Pediatric Brain Tumors
At first, parents will need to find well-versed pediatric neurosurgeons for ensuring safety and health of their children. Respective pediatric neurosurgeons may commence the diagnosis by asking certain important questions to children as well as their parents. For example, they will likely ask regarding the symptoms which children are experiencing. They may also ask about medical history as well as family history of children. Parents should honestly answer these questions in order to improve accuracy of diagnosis procedure. Furthermore, doctors may order the following tests to confirm the presence of brain tumors in children.
- Neurological Evaluation – Doctors may perform a complete neurological evaluation to figure out reflexes, muscular strength and overall coordination of children.
- Computed Tomography (CT Scan) – CT scan is one of the most reliable tests for diagnosing pediatric brain tumors. It involves the use of x-rays and computer technology to create high-resolution images of brain and nearby areas.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI Test) – An MRI test allows neurosurgeons to clearly view internal details of brain of children. It is a painless procedure that generates high-quality images of brain with the help of magnetic fields and radio frequencies.
- Angiogram – Respective doctors may order an angiogram test for the inspection of blood vessels in brain of children. A specialized dye is injected to precisely view the type and location of tumor in brain.
- Lumbar Puncture – Also known as ‘spinal tap’, a lumbar puncture test involves insertion of a thin needle in lower back portion around spinal cord of children. Neurosurgeons remove a specific amount of cerebrospinal fluid and send it to a laboratory for testing.
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Treatment Options for Pediatric Brain Tumors
In some instances, where severity of tumor is less, neurosurgeons may prescribe medicines for managing the symptoms. They may also ask parents to bring their children to the clinic at regular intervals for monitoring. When children are struggling with serious brain tumor condition, neurosurgeons may choose to perform any of the following treatments.
- Pediatric Brain Tumor Surgery – Transsphenoidal or nasal endoscopic neurosurgery is the mainstream treatment for pediatric brain tumors. It is mostly performed under the influence of general anesthetics which implies that children will be asleep during the surgical procedure. Respective neurosurgeons may use a medical instrument known as an ‘endoscope’ to access and remove the undesired tumor via nose of children. Endoscope has a camera on its one end which helps doctors to monitor the position of tumor throughout the operation.
- Radiation Therapy – In rare instances, neurosurgeons may use radiation therapy to treat pediatric brain tumors. It is mostly performed when surgeons are not able to remove a small amount of tumor following the pediatric brain tumor It involves use of high-intensity radiation to kill the underlying brain tumor cells and tissues.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy involves the use of powerful medicines and drugs that are capable of wiping out the brain tumor tissues. Just like radiation therapy, it is also used when a small amount of tumor remains in brain of children following their surgery.
Risks and Complications Associated with Pediatric Brain Tumor Surgery
The following list elaborates some major risks and complications associated with pediatric brain tumor surgery.
- CSF Rhinorrhea – It is the most common complication following nasal endoscopic neurosurgery. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may start to leak from nose of children following pediatric brain tumor
- Infection – There remains a possibility of occurrence of severe infection following the surgery. Respective neurosurgeons are likely to provide antibiotic drugs in order to control infection.
- Bleeding – Children may encounter bleeding from nose after completion of their brain tumor surgery. In such cases, an immediate medical attention is necessary.
- Vision Problems – Sometimes, vision problems may appear following the brain tumor surgery.
Parents must ask regarding potential health complications and their solutions to doctors prior to the surgical procedure.
Recovery Following Pediatric Brain Tumor Surgery
Children may require staying in the hospital for a day or two following pediatric brain tumor surgery. Respective pediatric neurosurgeons may prescribe certain medications to minimize any type of discomfort and help children stay active. Parents will need to keep a check on daily diet of children during their recovery phase. Doctors may prepare a detailed diet plan and instruct parents to follow them. In addition to this, parents will need to take their children to hospitals frequently for attending follow-up care sessions. It will definitely boost the healing process.
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