Child Brain Tumour Diagnosis 'Slow' In UK

Darren Little, Midlands correspondent

Britain has one of the worst records among developed countries for diagnosing brain tumours in children, according to new research.

It can take as much as three times longer to get a correct diagnosis in the UK compared to the US and Canada, researchers from a campaign aiming to raise awareness of the symptoms have said.

The Headsmart initiative is aiming to increase knowledge of the symptoms among parents and GPs, in the hope of getting a quicker diagnosis, saving lives and stopping sufferers from being disabled as a result of a tumour.

The condition is the leading cause of cancer deaths in children, but the symptoms are often mistaken for other more minor problems, meaning vital treatment time is lost.

Professor David Walker from the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham told Sky News: "There are two risks with delayed diagnosis; one is early death and the other one is greater brain injury.

"So the longer the delay between symptom onset and diagnosis, the greater the risk of early death and the greater the risk of brain injury which may not subsequently fully recover."


Neil and Angela Dickson, whose daughter Samantha died from a brain tumour which was not correctly diagnosed for nine months, now run a charity in her name and have helped fund Headsmart.

They have been running the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust for 14 years and regularly hear stories of brain tumours not being diagnosed quickly enough, often with tragic consequences.

Mrs Dickson said: "We were surprised that this is the second biggest cancer and it kills more adults and children under 40 than any other cancer, and yet there is not enough attention from the larger charities to do more about it."

Around 500 children and young people are diagnosed with brain tumours every year and a total of a quarter of all childhood cancers occur in the brain.


The problem for doctors is the symptoms are different depending on the child's age.

The new poster and leaflet campaign outlines what to look for among different age groups.

Ryan Lee's symptoms were initially thought to be part of being a grumpy teenager.

But three weeks after he was finally diagnosed with a brain tumour, he was in a wheelchair. Ryan, from Derby, died in 2009.

His parents now accept that prior to the diagnosis he was displaying many of the key signs.

His mother Deb said: "If the schools knew more of the signs and symptoms to look for I think they would have told us that Ryan was having a lot more of these issues beforehand, and we may have taken him to the doctor a lot sooner."

The information contained in the Headsmart posters and leaflets is also available online at headsmart.org.uk .