HeadSmart campaign launches new website and drive to further reduce childhood brain tumour diagnosis times

HeadSmart has already helped cut the average diagnosis time for a childhood brain tumour in the UK from more than 13 weeks to 6.5 weeks.

Today (Monday 16 January) sees the launch of a new drive to bring that figure below four weeks, in order to save lives and reduce the long-term disability caused by childhood brain tumours. It will focus on healthcare professionals, parents and teenagers in a bid to ensure young patients with possible brain tumour symptoms are referred for specialist help as quickly as possible.

HeadSmart is a partnership between The Brain Tumour Charity, The Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. It is being formally relaunched today at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London, where doctors will take part in a workshop about the signs and symptoms of childhood brain tumours. Professor David Walker, co-director of the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre, will speak, along with The Brain Tumour Charity's chief executive, Sarah Lindsell.

Among those due to attend are three of The Brain Tumour Charity's Young Ambassadors – Harry Graham, Emma Barnett and Tom Peddie - all of whom were diagnosed with a brain tumour at a young age and now support HeadSmart. Sacha Langton-Gilks, who lost her son DD to a late-diagnosed brain tumour in 2012 and is now HeadSmart's lead community champion, will also be there.

The campaign, which includes pocket-sized symptoms cards and a website, lists the warning signs of a brain tumour in babies, children and teenagers. These include vomiting, balance problems and unusual eye movements.

HeadSmart is based on research into the most commonly-presented symptoms of childhood brain tumours, carried out by the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre.

After a review of all the evidence, newly-added symptoms in the relaunched campaign include increasing head circumference in under-fives and loss of vision across all age groups.

The new campaign also features an icon, nicknamed Sam. Each of the ten key childhood brain tumour symptoms is represented by Sam in a different, easily-recognisable form.

Hayley Epps, campaign manager for The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Brain tumours kill more children in the UK than any other type of cancer. HeadSmart has two aims: to save lives and reduce long-term disability by bringing down diagnosis times.

Relaunching the campaign will help us to achieve those goals by alerting more healthcare professionals, parents and young people to the signs and symptoms of the disease."

Professor Walker said: “Since developing and launching HeadSmart, we have made real progress, halving the time it takes on average to diagnose a child with a brain tumour across the UK.

“This relaunch of the HeadSmart campaign uses new evidence, justifying a new approach to healthcare professionals, young people and parents of younger children.

“With this revised approach we aim to further accelerate the speed of diagnosis by helping doctors, young people and their families to work better together in selecting those who need a brain scan to diagnose or exclude a brain tumour."

Visit the new HeadSmart website.

HeadSmart is a guest campaign for January 2017, with MumsNet.