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Prognosis and survival for childhood brain and spinal cord tumours
You may have questions about prognosis for childhood brain and spinal cord tumours. A prognosis is the doctor’s best estimate of how cancer will affect a child and how it will respond to treatment. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with a child’s medical history, the type, stage and characteristics of the cancer, the treatments chosen and the response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statisticsto arrive at a prognosis.
A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the child that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. A predictive factor influences how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment. Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together. They both play a part in deciding on a treatment plan and a prognosis.
The following are prognostic and predictive factors for childhood brain and spinal cord tumours.
Type of tumour
The type of brain or spinal cord tumour is an important prognostic factor. Some tumour types have a more favourable prognosis than others.
Grade of the tumour
Low-grade, slow-growing tumours usually have a more favourable prognosis than high-grade tumours.
Location of the tumour
The location of the tumour is an important prognostic factor because it determines whether the tumour can be completely removed with surgery. Easily accessible tumours have a more favourable prognosis. Tumours in the cerebrum and cerebellum tend to have a better outcome than those in the brain stem, ventricles or midbrain. But other factors, such as the grade of the tumour, will affect the prognosis of tumours in the cerebrum and cerebellum.
Size of the tumour
Small tumours have a better prognosis than large tumours.
Tumours that can be completely removed with surgery (are resectable) have a more favourable prognosis than tumours that can’t be removed with surgery (are unresectable).
If a tumour spreads to other areas of the central nervous system (CNS), the prognosis is less favourable.
Age of the child at diagnosis
Children over the age of 3 tend to have a more favourable prognosis than children under the age of 3. This may be because children over the age of 3 can be given radiation. Many types of childhood brain and spinal cord tumours are sensitive to the effects of radiation, so if the child is old enough to receive radiation, it could improve the prognosis. In addition, the types of tumours that often develop in children under 3 years old may be more aggressive.
For some types of tumours, such as brain stem glioma, children under 3 years old may have a better prognosis.
Genetic changes or conditions
Certain genetic changes or conditions may affect your child’s prognosis, depending on the type of brain or spinal cord tumour. Children diagnosed with some types of brain or spinal cord tumours who have neurofibromatosis may have a better prognosis.
Great progress has been made
Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.