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Brain cancer

Radiation for Brain Cancer Reduces Brain Function in Children

Friday, December 14, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: brain cancer, brain function, radiation


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(NewsTarget) Children who have received radiation to treat brain cancer get lower grades than children whose brains have not been exposed to radiation, according to a Finnish study published in the journal Neurology.

Researchers used data from national registries to compare 300 juvenile brain cancer patients with 1,473 healthy children of equivalent age and sex and living in approximately the same area. All cancer patients had been diagnosed before the age of 16, were still alive on their 16th birthdays and had been born between 1974 and 1986.

The researchers found that overall grade point averages were lower in cancer patients. The greatest difference came in studies of foreign languages, followed by a moderate impact on math and physical education grades, and only a minor impact on other subjects taught in a child's native language.

The researchers examined the effects of radiation separately, and found that it made the learning-related effects of the cancer more pronounced. Among boys, the impact was greatest when radiation exposure came after the age of seven, while the inverse was true among girls. While grades among boys were lower than those among girls in both the patient and control groups, girls' grades suffered greater impacts from both cancer and radiation treatment.

"Children diagnosed with brain tumors, even low-grade ones treated with surgery only, should be monitored closely during and after treatment to identify early signs of learning disabilities and to maximize intervention strategies for the successful completion of scholastic goals," the researchers wrote.

Among the children who survived cancer, 94 percent completed ninth grade at the standard age.

Prior studies have demonstrated the effects of brain cancer on academic achievement, but the current study is the first to specifically examine the effects of cancer and radiation treatment on grades or on specific fields of study.

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