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Campaign Asks Parents To Be Aware of Brain Tumor in Children

  • Published: 2011-06-11 (Revised/Updated 2017-11-28) : Author: Royal College of Paediatrics
  • Synopsis: HeadSmart aims to speed up diagnosis rates and raise awareness of brain tumor symptoms.

Quote: "The symptoms of a brain tumor can often be similar to those of other illnesses; as a result they are frequently mistaken for less serious conditions."

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A new campaign is being launched to help parents and health professionals spot the signs of brain tumors in children and young people.

HeadSmart aims to speed up diagnosis rates and raise awareness of brain tumor symptoms.

Louise Pennell visited the doctor several times with her four year old son, Tom before he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Louise said:

"By themselves, the signs he had might not have indicated a brain tumor, it was the pattern of symptoms which was important."

"Parents and carers should not panic, but they do know their children better than anyone else. If you're concerned then get them seen by a doctor, and take them back if necessary. At best, it will turn out to be nothing, in which case you gain peace of mind - if it is a brain tumor then early diagnosis may save your child's life."

Around 500 children and young people a year are diagnosed with a brain tumor - nearly ten a week - and a quarter of all child cancers occur in the brain. Survival rates have improved over the past 20 years but brain tumors remain the leading cause of cancer deaths in children.

The symptoms of a brain tumor can often be similar to those of other illnesses; as a result they are frequently mistaken for less serious conditions.

It can take up to three months for a child to be diagnosed in the UK - three times longer than in the United States and Canada. Delays in diagnosis contribute to a higher death rate and lifelong disability, which child brain tumor survivors are ten times more likely to suffer from.

HeadSmart is a new joint campaign by the Children's Brain Tumor Research Center at the University of Nottingham, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumor Trust that aims to raise awareness of brain tumor symptoms by helping parents and health professionals spot the signs of brain tumors in children and young people.

To do this the HeadSmart campaign has launched a range of resources, including a new website, leaflets and a pocket-sized 'symptoms card'. These provide information for doctors, parents, carers and young people about how to spot the signs of a possible brain tumor. These are available online from today.

Founder of the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumor Trust Neil Dickson said;

"Having taken 9 months for our own daughter to be diagnosed with a brain tumor, and receiving many calls from parents who experienced similar delays, we strongly believe that more should be done to reduce the time taken for a diagnosis, and that is why Samantha Dickson Brain Tumor Trust is a partner in the HeadSmart Campaign. Tragically this comes too late for Samantha, but by increasing the awareness of symptoms among parents and healthcare professionals, it doesn't need to be too late for others."

Professor David Walker, Professor of Paediatric Oncology at the Children's Brain Tumor Research Center, said:

"Brain tumors are fortunately rare, but they do happen, and it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose because the symptoms can often mimic less serious illnesses. Parents have no need to worry if their child occasionally experiences headaches, for example, but if symptoms come back frequently or are present for more two weeks or more, see your family doctor. The most important thing is that parents and family doctors know the symptoms of child brain tumors and make sure that possible cases are diagnosed as quickly as possible".

Dr Jan Dudley, Chair of the RCPCH Clinical Standards Committee, Executive of Headsmart project board, said:

"The UK lags behind other developed countries in the time taken for brain tumors to be diagnosed. The Headsmart campaign aim of increasing public and professional awareness of brain tumors in children is crucial in addressing this imbalance."


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