Ten-year-old’s brain tumour symptoms dismissed as tantrums

April 30, 2019

Parents are often dismissive of children who throw tantrums and behave difficult. A 10-year-old boy who was sent to a boarding school about eight months ago because of behavioural issues, was actually found to be suffering from brain tumour

Heeding the advice of teachers and neighbours, Rahul (name changed), was admitted to a boarding school. His parents hoped the move would help get the boy back on track.

However, once in boarding school, the boy’s condition seemed to worsen. Not only was he found to be disoriented, he was also unable to concentrate. He regularly complained of severe headache and vomiting, but teachers thought he was only trying to skip classes and return home.

One day, an aunt visited Rahul at the boarding school and saw that he was down with fever. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital and diagnosed with typhoid. Rahul’s aunt later brought him to Columbia Asia Hospital , Whitefield. While Rahul’s recurrent episodes of vomiting were thought to be attempts to avoid boarding school, his abnormal gait was initially explained as mischief. However, on examination, he was found to have a squint. All these symptoms prompted an urgent MRI scan, which revealed that he had been struggling with a brain tumour “It was not a sudden problem. The child had been showing symptoms, but no one noticed. He used to sway while walking, but people around assumed he was trying to imitate film stars and was even punished for doing so. Due to this delay of 7-8 months, the tumour had grown near the brain stem,” said Dr Suruchi, consultant — pediatrics, Columbia Asia Hospital.

Child successfully treated

Dr Tejus MN Rao, consultant, neurosurgery and endovascular neuro intervention, Columbia Asia Hospital, Whitefield said, "Rahul’s skull was opened to perform craniotomy, which is the surgical removal of a part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain. Through excision, the tumour was completely removed. Post surgery, Rahul was on ventilator for a day and then in ICU for two days. As his condition improved, he was shifted to the ward on the third day. Rahul was successfully treated with surgery and is now on regular follow-up."

Dr Tejus said brain tumours can occur at any age and the ones that occur in infants or children are quite different from adult brain tumours, both in terms of response to treatment and the type of cells.

Symptoms to look out for

  • Frequent, persistent headaches, alongside a feeling of increased pressure inside the head
  • Unidentified nausea or vomiting
  • Abrupt vision problems, blurring and abnormal eye movement
  • A fuller soft spot in babies
  • Seizure even without any history of it
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty in balancing; swaying while walking
  • Weakness in limbs, lethargy or loss of sensation
  • Memory problem
  • Behavioural changes
  • Rapidly enlarging head in babies or toddlers