How do you know if a headache is something more?

How do you know if a headache is something more?

Headaches in children are very common.  In fact, 20% of children will experience headaches.  While they can be caused by a variety of issues, headaches can also be the first sign of a brain tumor.

“While very rare, childhood brain tumors are the most common solid tumor in children,” says Dr. John Ruge, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Advocate Children’s Hospital.  “It is second only to leukemia of all childhood cancers.”

Brain tumors account for approximately 15% to 20% of all cancers in individuals under 15 years of age. Between 4,000-5-000 new primary pediatric brain tumors, or 5 in 100,000 children will be diagnosed in the United States this year.

So how do you know if you child has a brain tumor?  There are several symptoms that could signal a diagnosis.

  • Headaches that become more frequent and severe; not localized on one side or the other.
  • Headaches with nausea and vomiting.
  • Headaches that are not responding to measures and treatments recommended by your pediatrician.
  • A new neurologic issue, such as a change in balance, swallowing difficulties, double vision, new weakness or seizure.
  • Irritability and drowsiness or personality change.

Of course, any change in your child’s condition that concerns you should be brought to your pediatrician’s attention. He or she may recommend an MRI or will refer you to a pediatric neurologist or neurosurgeon.

“Tremendous progress has been made in the treatment of children with brain tumors,” says Dr. Ruge.  “Surgery, chemotherapy, as well as radiation and novel therapies can be very effective.  At Advocate Children’s Hospital, we have a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals, including neurologists and neurosurgeons specializing in the treatment of pediatric brain tumors.”

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About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!