How Common Is Glioblastoma in Children?

B. Chisholm

Glioblastoma in children is rare, with it occurring mainly in adults between 45 and 70 years old. It is a severe brain cancer which has a poor outcome and high mortality rate, even when treatment is given. Glioblastoma in children and adults requires specialist care and the earlier the intervention, the better. In children, glioblastomas most often occur in the brain stem.

Among child patients, glioblastomas are most often found in the brain stem.
Among child patients, glioblastomas are most often found in the brain stem.

A cancerous tumor is an area where abnormal cells grow out of control. In the case of glioblastoma in children, the cells involved are the glial cells in the brain which support the neurons. They may present over a short period of time during when the child may experience headaches, nausea, seizures, visual or sensory loss and changes in personality. The symptoms experienced depend largely on the position of the tumor. Urgent medical help should be sought in a child displaying any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time, with no obvious cause.

The earlier a medical intervention occurs after a glioblastoma diagnosis, the better the outcome.
The earlier a medical intervention occurs after a glioblastoma diagnosis, the better the outcome.

The exact cause of glioblastoma in children is not known although genes may play a role in some cases. Various tests will be performed by the doctor to establish the position and size of the tumor and the best treatment plan will be established according to the results of the tests. The tests may include MRI scans, CAT scans and blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests.

Although glioblastoma can strike children, most of the tumors occur in adults who are between 45 and 70 years old.
Although glioblastoma can strike children, most of the tumors occur in adults who are between 45 and 70 years old.

While glioblastoma can occur at any age, one study showed that only about 8% of glioblastomas occurred in children. Medulloblastomas are the most commonly found brain tumors in children. Regardless of the type of tumor, specialist intervention is required. Various medical professionals including oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and neurologists may be involved in the diagnostic process and decision-making regarding treatment options.

Treatment of glioblastoma in children is generally not curative but may prolong the life of the child. In some cases surgery may be performed, although often their position of the glioblastoma in the brain stem may exclude surgical intervention. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor. Supportive treatment, such as analgesia for pain, corticosteroids to decrease swelling and anti-epileptic drugs in the case of seizures may also be used.

Glioblastoma in children often has a poor outcome and support groups and therapy for both the child and family are vital. The tumor may affect the child's ability to complete tasks and participate in normal activities so support both at school and home is important. Most cancer centers incorporate psychological counseling as part of their treatment programs.

Radiotherapy, such as with a linear accelerator, might be used to help treat glioblastoma in children.
Radiotherapy, such as with a linear accelerator, might be used to help treat glioblastoma in children.

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