When your child has been diagnosed with a tumour, it can be a very scary time for everyone. A consultant will provide you with lots of information at the beginning and you will find there will be lots of other things you would like to ask. It can take a little while but depending how quickly the consultant can make a plan, they will provide you with the best course of treatment. Of course you are more than welcome to challenge the choices suggested by the consultant so please don't be afraid to ask.
If your child has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, the consultant may suggest neurosurgery. A neurosurgeon will perform what is called craniotomy and will try their very best to remove as much of the tumour, if not all as safely as possible. By removing the tumour or part of the tumour, it aims to slow the tumour's growth, increase the chances of a cure, allow other treatments to work better and improve the child's symptoms.
Surgeons may choose to not perform surgery. The tumour may be classed as low grade meaning the consultant may choose to decide surgery will do more harm than good or the position of the tumour may be located in a sensitive area in which an operation may cause damage to this area.
A biopsy may be taken during a craniotomy if it is safe to do so otherwise a smaller operation will take place to remove a sample of the abnormal tissue. It will then be sent to the laboratory to enable them to diagnose the grade and type of tumour your child has.
The consultant may recommend a neurosurgeon to perform an operation to insert a tube called a shunt. This is to help drain excess fluid away and ease some of the pressure.
After your child has undergone neurosurgery, they will be taken straight to the Intensive Care Unit to be woken. This itself can be a very upsetting and scary time as there will be lots of tubes, dressings and machines around your child.
Radiotherapy is a type of treatment used to help reduce or kill cancer cells. It is a machine that tries to carefully target the area needed by beams of radiation.
The consultant may include radiotherapy into your child's treatment plan. It will all depend on the type of tumour, the grade, the age of your child and the outcome the consultant is expecting. It is often given if surgery is not an option or to reduce the remaining tumour cells. It can also help to make other treatments more effective, reduce the chances of the tumour returning or if there is no cure, it can help reduce the symptoms and prolong life.
If your child is very young, they will be given an anaesthetic to help them keep still during the procedure. Otherwise, they will be given a treatment mask to help protect any radiation beams to the face and to help keep the child still.
The duration of radiotherapy given to a child is not all the same. Each child's treatment plan will be individual to them. It is common though for radiation to be given to children as a 4-6 week course with a either a break at the weekends or a longer break in between. The consultant will carry out check up's to find out how your child is doing.
Chemotherapy is another type of treatment that may be given to your child. It is often given to help reduce the tumours growth rate or destroy tumour cells.
It can be given at any point during treatment.
Before surgery - Will be given to help shrink the tumour to make it easier to operate.
After surgery - To help prevent the return of the tumour, continue to destroy the remaining tumour cells or help with symptoms caused by the tumour.
There are more than 100 different types of chemotherapy drugs. The consultant will take careful consideration into which types of drugs will be given to your child. They will look at how long each drug should be used for and the dosage given. Chemotherapy can be given in 2 different ways, either orally or by injection either into the vein or lines. It all depends which type of drug the consultant chooses to use.
Proton Beam Therapy:-
Proton Beam Therapy is another form of Radiotherapy. Or in other terms a kinda form of Radiotherapy. Unlike conventional Radiotherapy where beams of X-Ray's are aimed at the child causing severe side effects during and after, Proton Beam aims beams of protons at a specific part where the tumour is located causing less effect to the child.
Because proton beams can be directed to a specific area, it can be very helpful in terms of reaching more sensitive places such as the spinal cord and optic nerve.
Like with all treatments, sadly some healthy parts of the body are damaged. But as proton beam has less of an impact on damaging surrounding tissue around the tumour, it can be given in higher doses.
The 1st UK's hospital's proton beam therapy centre opened early 2018 in Manchester. But sadly before this, there were no options for young adults or children to receive proton beam therapy here in the UK. Many parents have been forced to either self fund treatment in other countries or many have lost their lives simply because the damaging effect of treatment can sometimes be the cause of the loss instead of the tumour itself.
Because AT/RT tumours are so vicious, it is important to target the tumour immediately after diagnosis. Sometimes this can mean your child will receive a course of treatment which seems quiet harsh. The normal treatment procedure for AT/RT is neurosurgery, then a course of radiation to target the tumour as soon as possible, then chemotherapy to help either reduce the remaining tumour cells or symptoms. Again, all treatment plans are individually tailored to each child's diagnosis so not everyone will receive the same.