Hematology and Oncology – A Look into Pediatric Brain Cancer

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, there are more than four thousand children diagnosed with brain tumors each year in the United States. In many cases, these tumors start within the brain and are not the result of another cancer in the body spreading to the brain tissue. With a primary tumor in the brain it is rare to see it spread beyond the brain and spinal cord. Unfortunately, any tumor in the brain can be life threatening. Pediatric hematology and oncology provide treatment methods that help to eliminate the brain tumor before it grows too large, ultimately interrupting vital body functions such as breathing or the circulation of blood.

Pediatric Oncology – Facts about Brain Tumors
Brain tumors in children are very different from those that develop in adults, and a tumor in a child’s brain requires not only specific research but very different treatment methods. With many children, brain tumors are located in the control center of the brain governing thought, emotion, and movement. This can have a dramatic impact on development and could potentially create long term side-effects including physical, learning and emotional challenges.

? There are over 120 different types of brain tumors, which present a challenge for pediatric oncology specialists in forming an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan
? Brain tumors can become fatal if the location within the brain prevents surgical removal or other treatments/cures
? More than 70% of children diagnosed with a brain tumor are under the age of 15
? Approximately 11 children per day are diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor in the United States

Treating Brain Cancer through Pediatric Hematology and Oncology
Treatment of brain cancer in children requires a number of specialists working in tandem with a division of pediatric hematology and oncology. Oncologists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, pediatric surgeons, nursing staff specializing in pediatrics, rehabilitation staff, volunteers and more all work together to give children the greatest chance at success.

The chance of recovery during and after treatment depends greatly on the type of tumor, its overall spread, the age and general health of the child and the location of the tumor in the brain. Treatment can vary at different stages due to the fact that technology continues to evolve and improve. Those treatments that are available are tailored specifically to the needs of the individual patient.

Pediatric Hematology and Oncology – Treatment Methods
There are three types of treatment administered through pediatric hematology and oncology, applied either separately or in combination with one another.

Surgery – Surgery is intended to remove either all or a part of a tumor while minimizing the damage to surrounding tissue and nerves. In some cases only a small portion of the tumor or cancerous tissue is taken for biopsy. New technologies include brain mapping and intraoperative MRI as well as awake brain surgery allow surgeons to operate while reducing the potential for injuring vital areas of the brain.

Radiation – When surgery isn’t an option, another option through pediatric oncology is radiation. This is the use of high-energy X-rays that ultimately destroy tumor cells. Radiation is often used in tandem with or after chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy – This involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This is referred to as a systemic treatment in pediatric oncology and hematology because the drug (taken through the muscle, through IV or orally) enters the bloodstream, travels through the body and can kill cancer cells.

Symptoms of brain tumors typically mimic those of many common childhood illnesses. Because the symptoms are so similar, it can be difficult for a pediatrician to diagnose cancer when a child is first seen. Parents are recommended to persist and request additional testing is symptoms of common illness persist and do not respond to normal treatments.

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