Pediatric Brain Tumor Statistics & The Critical Need for More Research

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Nothing is more frightening than having your child diagnosed with a brain tumor. We do everything possible to keep our children safe, but when the enemy is within, how can we protect them?

The best way to fight this disease is to understand it. To help, we’ve compiled pediatric brain tumor statistics and facts that can empower us to fight the battle and give our children a long, healthy life. 

We’re aiming for 77 years, not just 7. 

Pediatric Brain Tumors: Statistics and Overview

Pediatric brain tumors affect all races, both sexes, and can be diagnosed at any age. Over the last 20 years, there has been a 0.7% increase in cases each year

National Cancer Institute

Close to 5,000 children and teens are diagnosed with brain and spinal cord tumors each year.

Brain tumors are the 2nd most common cancers in children, after leukemia, and account for 15.9% of all new childhood cancer cases. Among all childhood cancers, brain tumors are the leading cause of death

Astrocytomas, including glioblastoma multiforme, are the most common type of glioma, making up half of all childhood brain tumors, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. They have a survival rate of about 25%

Help Us Fight Pediatric Brain Tumors 

Incidence of Pediatric Brain Tumors

1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. That’s 43 children a day. 

Most pediatric brain tumors are diagnosed between the ages of 1 and 9. Though we don’t know  why, the incidence of congenital pediatric brain tumors (diagnosed within 2 months of birth) is higher in the U.S. than in other countries.

Childhood Brain Cancer Survival Rate

Different types of brain tumors have different survival rates. Some are more aggressive than others and some affect boys and girls differently.

Treating Pediatric Brain Tumors

Most treatments for pediatric cancer were approved more than 30 years ago, many before the mid-1980s. Because they’re so toxic, two out of three survivors will develop at least one chronic health condition, including musculoskeletal issues, learning difficulties, and second cancers. 

Researchers are looking for new ways to treat brain tumors more effectively, with fewer side effects. They’re exploring therapeutic viruses, immunotherapy, increasing oxygen levels in the tumor, attacking the blood vessels that feed tumors, and drugs targeted at the gene changes in tumor cells. They’re also developing more advanced imaging techniques. 

As a result, pediatric brain tumors are being diagnosed earlier and treated with more targeted strategies. These advances are critical to not only help children beat the disease but to experience fewer late effects.

For example, because children’s brains are sensitive to radiation, large doses can lead to devastating side effects, especially in young children. Several newer types of radiation therapy can be aimed more precisely at the tumor, which can keep normal brain tissue from getting too much radiation.

Chemotherapy drugs are limited in their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to target brain tumors. Researchers are looking for ways to modify these drugs to make them more effective. 

Life After a Pediatric Brain Tumor

If a child survives, they have a 95 percent chance of developing chronic health problems, secondary cancers, cognitive impairments, and a shortened lifespan due to the harshness of current treatment options. 

A study that examined the lives of pediatric brain tumor survivors found that they struggle for normalcy. They describe their everyday lives in terms of their health and ability to function like their peers. Many relied on their families to provide resources, structure, and support.

Despite the 75% survival rates, cancer victims continue to  suffer from the disease. Late effects can be long-term and progressive. This is especially for children who were young when they were diagnosed and who were treated with cranial radiation.

Even after age 28, they may struggle socially and mentally. The study includes quotes from the survivors, including:

“In high school … they thought I was funny ‘cause my head was shaped weird, and called me all weird names. I didn’t like it.” 

“I don’t like to wear my hearing aids. I don’t like the way they look.”

“The hardest thing in my life is getting along with my friends…people I work with…I want to have friends, but I just can’t seem to find them.” 

“I need my family for everything. They have to remind me about my medications, making doctor’s appointments, driving me everywhere, and make my food.” 

Research Is Critical

To improve the outcomes of children who are diagnosed with brain tumors, it’s critical to improve our understanding of the disease, find ways to treat brain tumors more effectively, and reduce the toxicity of treatments. 

For example, researchers have found some changes in genes, chromosomes, and proteins inside brain tumor cells that can be used to help predict a child’s outlook or help guide treatment. 

But pediatric brain tumor research is underfunded. Only 4% of federal funding for cancer research goes to studies on pediatric cancers. 

Daniel Leach, Chief of Community and Government Relations at the National Brain Tumor Society says, “Though it doesn’t often feel as such, brain tumors are considered rare diseases, which in the past have been overlooked throughout the research and drug development landscape. 

“This is particularly true for pediatric brain tumors, which are now the leading cause of cancer-related death in children and adolescents ages 19 and younger. However, thanks in large part to a dedicated community of advocates, momentum has built in recent years toward better policies that support rare and pediatric cancer drug development.” 

Help Us Fight this Devastating Disease

We believe that every child should run, swim, and bike for 77 years, not just 7.

We’re raising $777k to battle pediatric brain tumors. Let’s give the greatest gift of all, a long, healthy life. 

Your gift will:

  • Fund research to Improve treatments and extend lives
  • Help families battling this devastating disease
  • Put a smile on a child’s face

Every Dollar Helps