Brain and spinal cord tumors are a kind of disease wherein cells in these organs grow and divide in an abnormal manner. Having these tumors is very crucial for the brain and the spinal cord together make up the central nervous system, which is responsible for the integration of sensory information and response.
In terms of prevalence, brain and spinal cord tumors are considered as one of the most common types of cancers affecting children, accounting t0 more than 26% of them. Because of this, children with brain and spinal cord tumors reflect a major treatment challenge, that in order to achieve success, needs effective and precise approach.
Most of the time, these tumors in children begin in the lower parts of the brain, particularly in the cerebellum. In some cases, brain tumors are found not to have begun in the brain or spinal cord itself but rather to have emerged from other parts of the body (These kinds of tumors are known as secondary brain tumors or metastatic tumors).
- The symptoms of these tumors in children include blurred vision, headache, nausea, seizures, difficulty in balance, and others.
- In addition to these symptoms, some children with brain and spinal cord tumors become unable to learn certain actions like talking, sitting up, and walking. On the other hand, adults tend to develop these tumors in the upper parts of their brain.
Novel treatment methods
Apparently, brain and spinal cord tumors come in various types, thus the treatment for each also differ. And while these tumors can occur in both children and adults, the treatment procedures for children are different for adults.
- Most of the time, the diagnosis and treatment method done to remove the tumor is via biopsy. In the case of a brain tumor, a part of the skull is removed and after that, a needle is used to take sample tissues from the area. The tissue then is examined microscopically for the presence of cancer cells. If there are cancer cells found, the surgeon then removes them during surgery.
- On the other hand, a surgery or even a biopsy is very hard to execute because the tumor grew in a very sensitive part of the brain or spinal cord. Tumors of this kind are detected via imaging tests and other methods.
- Interestingly, scientists are currently working on viruses that can grow only within brain and spinal cord tumor cells, causing them to die while leaving other cells unaffected. However, this research is still up for further studies.
- It is important to note that cancer survivors, especially children and adolescent survivors, need very close monitoring because possible side effects may arise some time after the therapy.
- Because of this, scientific research is gearing towards finding novel approaches to treating and targeting the brain and spinal cord tumors more accurately and precisely. At present, the main goal is to find effective treatments that have relatively fewer side effects.
However, despite being truly promising, most of the treatments are still in the experimental phase and are only successful in a very strict clinical setting.