Guest Author - Rann Patterson
The Marvelous Brain
The brain is a wonder. It's electrical impulses enable us to think, reason, and move. The brain and spinal cord (nervous system) are surrounded by a sac of spinal fluid. The fluid acts as a shock absorber to protect our delicate, amazing system. We actually have three nervous systems:
1. Sympathetic Nervous System – is located at the base of the ribcage and lungs and going upwards, ends at the base of the brain. This system is where we get our “fight-or-flight” response, or “goosebumps” feeling. Here we also exhibit signs of strong emotion such as eye pupil dilation, sweating, and increased blood pressure.
2. Parasympathetic Nervous System – regulates internal organs and glands. Responsible for “rest-and-digest” activities of the body.
3. Central Nervous System - integrates the other two and consists of the brain and spinal cord.
This tumor develops in nerve (neuro) tissue usually originating in the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain and very close to the spinal column. Because of this precarious location, the cancer can move up into the brain, and/or go downward to the neck and chest area. It is a common tumor, and normally affects children age two and under.
Pressure on most any part of the brain can cause multiple side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, headache, lethargy, difficulty staying awake, seizures, visual impairment, irritability and tiredness. Steroids may be given to control swelling, and seizure medicine may be given to control seizures.
Because children's bodies are still in the growing stage, if there is pressure from excess spinal fluid in the brain, usually a shunt is placed there in a way that it can remain while the child receives surgeries and treatments, which may last from months to a few years. Many brain tumors are inoperable because they are hard to reach, so some treatments can be lengthy.
This is a short-list of terminology that might help you:
Cancer & Hematology (cancer and study of blood)
Brain & Spine (brain and central nervous system)
Neuro-oncology (nervous system cancer specialty)
Neuro-surgery (surgery of nervous system)
Neuro-pathologists (doctor who specialize in nerves)
Neurology (study of nervous system)
Nanotechnology (nano= particles 1 million Xs smaller than an ant) *newest
Robotic surgery (guided by surgeons)
Technology is changing rapidly and 'targeted therapy', which falls under nanotechnology, might be an option for hard-to-reach or inoperable type tumors. Ask your specialist if it might be an option for your situation. Children survivors in the past have had to deal with unforeseen long-term side-effects from decades-old treatments. With this new technology, hopefully that will change. Most surgeons now know that the less-invasive a treatment is, the better off the patient will be in the long run, both physically and mentally.
Other source for help:
Children's Brain Tumor Foundation – Great site, offers: Info on Teen Brain Tumor Survivors, Parent online discussion group, Young Adult online chat and blogs. This is the stop-gap kind of site you need when you leave the doctor's office.