Diagnosis times for brain tumours in children and young people have come down for the second year in a row, according to the charity HeadSmart. The announcement comes two years after the initiation of the charity’s ‘Be Brain Tumour Aware’ campaign, launched in June 2011.
Data from a study of 142 children before the campaign launched showed the average length of time it took to diagnose a brain tumour in a child in the UK was 9.1 weeks, which compares unfavourably with other western countries. Recent figures from a new study of 479 children show the diagnosis time to have dropped to 6.9 weeks.
The campaign, based on a clinical guideline endorsed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, aims to enhance awareness among parents and health professionals of the signs and symptoms of childhood brain tumours and to provide guidance.
Dr Sophie Wilne, a consultant paediatric oncologist at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, points out that diagnosis of brain tumours can be elusive.
“The initial symptoms are often nonspecific and can occur with other more common and less serious childhood illnesses,” she commented.
“Most childhood brain tumours are curable and we know that if we reduce the time taken to diagnosis we will reduce the likelihood of a child suffering from long-term, life-altering disability,” she added.
The charity warns that while the figures are encouraging, they are still some 2 weeks adrift of the campaign’s ultimate target of 5 weeks and continue to highlight the need for further education among both parents and health professionals.