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warning signs of brain cancer
These symptoms apply equally to the individual as they do to the child.

As a parent, you need to be aware of the symptoms of brain tumour. Your paediatrician is probably a very good doctor, but paediatricians are busy, they do not know your child as well as you do, and they may have never diagnosed brain tumour. You need to know to trust your own intuition when you feel that there is really something wrong with your child, even if the doctor initially interprets the symptoms as a common child ailment. Your doctor may be right, but you need to make sure certain tests are performed to rule out cancer.

GENERAL symptoms

  • a seizure not related to high fever
  • staring, repetitive automatic movements
  • persistent vomiting without any known cause (projectile vomiting), nausea
  • progressive weakness or clumsiness; neck tilt, squint
  • walking, balance problems
  • precocious puberty; growth retardation
  • sleep apnoea
  • vision problems
  • headache, especially that wakes the child up at night or is early in the morning
  • pain, especially back pain, which should be taken seriously in a child
  • changes in personality, irritability, listlessness

 

Symptoms connected with the tumour's position

Another group of symptoms is caused by the position of the tumour within the brain. In general, each area of the brain controls particular functions, and tumour growth may affect a particular part of the brain's ability to work normally. 

Some of these symptoms are listed below, grouped under the different parts of the brain. They are included only as a guide -- the exact diagnosis can only be made by a doctor and confirmed by tests. 

Frontal lobe tumours: Changes in personality and intellect. Unco-ordinated walk or weakness of one side of the body. Loss of smell, occasional speech difficulties. 

Parietal lobe: Difficulty in expressing or understanding words and problems with writing or reading. Difficulty in organising certain movements. Numbness or weakness on one side of the body. 

Occipital lobe: Loss of vision on one side. The person may not notice this at first. 

Temporal lobe: Fits may cause strange sensations; a feeling of fear, or intense familiarity (deja vu), strange smells or blackouts. Occasional speech difficulties. 

Cerebellum: Lack of co-ordination affecting walking and speech (dysarthria), unsteadiness, flickering involuntary movements of the eyes (nystagmus). Vomiting and neck stiffness. 

Brain stem: Unsteadiness and uncoordinated walk. Facial weakness, one sided smile or drooping eyelid. Double vision. Rarely, vomiting or headache just after waking; difficulty in speaking and swallowing. Symptoms may appear gradually. 

These symptoms may be caused by conditions other than a brain tumour. If you have any of the symptoms described it is important that you see your family doctor (general practitioner). 

Personality changes 
Sometimes brain tumours may cause changes in personality or behaviour. These symptoms usually occur when the tumour is in the brain's cerebral hemispheres. This situation can often be frightening for the patients and their families. Sometimes a referral for psychological support can help to assess the extent of the problem and look at ways of coping with it.

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