Brain Tumors (pediatric)

What are brain tumors? 
A brain tumor is a tumor that begins in the brain. Not all brain tumors are cancer, as brain tumors can be benign or malignant. Benign brain tumors do not contain cancer cells and once removed, rarely grow back. However, benign brain tumors can also cause serious health problems and may become malignant. Malignant brain tumors are the ones that are cancerous. They grow quickly and invade surrounding tissue and are usually life-threatening.

Brain tumors in children are not like those in adults. They require different treatment.
What causes brain tumors in children?
It is not known what causes primary brain tumors such as the ones mentioned above. Secondary brain tumors, however, are cancer growths that have spread or metastasized from another source. This is uncommon in children but seen usually in adults.

However, research has shown that some children who have certain genetic conditions are at greater risk of developing brain tumors. These genetic conditions include diseases such as neurofibromatosis, von Hippel-Lindau disease, and Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

What are the symptoms of brain tumors in children?
Symptoms of brain tumors are not the same in every child. Some common symptoms are:
• Persistent headaches
• Vomiting
• Blurred vision or other changes in vision
• Muscle spasms or seizures
• Difficulty walking or balancing
• Changes in speech
• Difficulty swallowing
• Difficulty concentrating
• Memory problems
• Changes in mood or personality
• Fatigue or lethargy
• In babies – a rapidly enlarging head

Brain tumors are difficult to diagnose. Symptoms might develop gradually, and a child might not experience all of them. In addition, any of the above symptoms could be signs of other childhood conditions, so if your child is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s best to discuss them with their doctor first. 

How are brain tumors in children diagnosed?
If physicians at KHCC suspect that a child has a brain tumor, they will run a number of tests and diagnostic procedures to determine whether there is a benign or malignant brain tumor present, and if so, to evaluate its size, location and how fast-growing it is:
• Complete physical and neurological exam to test the child’s vision, hearing, muscle reflexes, coordination and sensation in addition other neurological functions
• MRI and/or CT scan to get a complete image of the brain and to determine whether there are any abnormal areas 
• CSF test to get a sample of  the celebro-spinal fluid and examine whether there are any abnormal cells
• Biopsy either through surgery or a needle biopsy to extract some tissue to be further examined in a lab
• A spinal tap is sometimes ordered to check for protein level in celebrospinal fluid. Radiologists examine CT or MRI scan results carefully before ordering a spinal to avoid unnecessary complications

How are brain tumors in children treated at KHCC?
  • Handled by a team of dedicated specialists: 
    • Treating a brain tumor in a child is a very extensive and complicated process and requires a well-coordinated medical team that comprises of different specialists.
    • At KHCC, brain tumors are treated by a team of dedicated physicians involving pediatricians, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, neurologists and other specialists.
  • Specialized treatment:
    • Depending on the type of brain tumor and how advanced it is treatment can involve surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is considered only after proper consultation with all subspecialists.
    • At King Hussein Cancer Center, most children are treated without radiation to avoid unnecessary complications. Unlike brain tumors in adults, chemotherapy is a lot more effective in children with brain tumors.
  • State-of-the-art technologies: 
    • Given the extremely delicate location of brain tumors, the KHCC medical team uses the most state-of-the-art technologies and procedures to target brain tumors with maximum precision without exposing the patient to neurological damage.
    • Surgeons at KHCC operate on brain tumors ultrasound-guided and image-guided neurosurgery navigation systems to provide detailed images of the brain during the operation.
    • In addition, radiation oncologists treat brain tumors using stereotactic radiosurgery, a form of radiation therapy that can focus high-powered x-rays on very small areas without affecting nearby healthy tissue. This treatment is currently only available at KHCC.
Pediatric patients receive top quality care from a multidisciplinary team of pediatric oncology specialists that is entirely devoted to diagnosing and treating brain tumors and other childhood tumors.

Supportive Care
The pediatric multidisciplinary clinic works in close cooperation with other departments at KHCC so that pediatric cancer patients receive the most comprehensive care possible. Supportive care services at KHCC include:
• Psychosocial support
• Play Room and Play Therapy
• Back To School Program
 Spiritual care
• Physical therapy
• Nutrition
• Respiratory care
• Cancer support groups