Gray May - Brain Tumor Awareness Month
Supporting the Brain Tumor Community
As we enter the month of May, you might start seeing #GrayMay and #GoGrayInMay. You might ask yourself, “what does that mean? “Those hashtags are all across social media to recognize Brain Tumor Awareness Month, which occurs annually in May. The “gray” in those hashtags represent gray matter, which is the color of the brain cortex, which contains nerve cell bodies. Since a United States Congressional resolution was first passed in 2008, organizations across the country are taking the opportunity to focus attention on a condition that affects nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. alone. All of us at Here to Serve want to bring awareness to children who suffer the devastating effects of brain cancer and brain tumors.
The statistics regarding brain tumors in children under 19 are upsetting. According to the American Cancer Society, brain and spinal cord tumors are the second most common cancer in children. These types of cancers account for nearly 25% of childhood cancers. Over 4,000 children and teens are diagnosed with brain and spinal cord tumors each year. Fortunately, the 5-year survival rate for all combined types of brain tumors is about75%, but this rate can drastically vary from the kind of cancer. For example, Glioblastoma is a very aggressive cancer often occurring in the brain, and the survival rate is only about 20%.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of Brain Tumors in Children?
There are over 100 different types of brain tumors. Certain types of tumors, such as medulloblastoma, are more common in children. In many cases, the exact causes of brain tumors in children are unknown. Still, according to research at the Mayo Clinic, most pediatric brain tumors are generally primary brain tumors that form in brain tissues. Healthy cells have mutations in their DNA; these mutations divide and grow at an increased rate. They spread while destroying healthy cells. The consequence is a mass of abnormal cells which develop into a tumor. The tumors will either be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
The skull protects the brain, a fragile part of the body. There is a limited amount of extra space; as a brain tumor grows, this will cause pressure known as intracranial pressure. As this pressure occurs, symptoms might begin to develop. Johns Hopkins Medical University provides abundantly helpful information about children’s brain tumors. Some of the signs and symptoms they mention to be aware of:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lethargy and drowsiness
The above list is very general symptoms, so it does not automatically mean a brain tumor or cancer if you see one or even all of them. If you are concerned that your child or a loved one might have any brain issues, don’t hesitate to contact a health care professional and seek a thorough diagnosis.
Treatment Options for Pediatric Brain Tumors
If a tumor has developed, there are many treatment options. The three most common are:
- Surgery-Most common in infants and young children. If the tumor is accessible and slow-growing, surgery might be the only required treatment for complete removal. There might be some neurological issues after surgery, but usually, they are only temporary.
- Radiation Therapy-Beams of radiation target the tumor and tissue surrounding the area. This treatment may require several sessions to remove all cancer.
- Chemotherapy-There are different forms of chemo available, pills taken orally or IVs given intravenously. The chemo is usually injected into the cerebrospinal fluid.
Here to Serve and Provide Guidance
A cancer diagnosis is news no parent or guardian ever want to hear. It is a life-changing event that will affect all family members. Fear and confusion are just two of the emotions parent go through in the early days of learning this news. Where can you turn for support? Family and friends can provide emotional care during this time. If you need additional assistance for day-to-day tasks, please reach out to Here to Serve and our Care Communities. We have helped many families with children suffering from brain tumors and other pediatric cancers. Our aid and care can ease your anxiety during a stressful time.
By Chris Smith