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Patient questionnaires could flag learning difficulties in children treated for a brain tumour

Research published online today in the scientific journal Neuro-oncology has shown that some of the questionnaires completed by patients, parents and teachers relating to the behaviour, emotional wellbeing and quality of life of children affected by a brain tumour can flag reductions in IQ.

Around half of long-term survivors of childhood brain tumours experience significant difficulties with perception and learning as a result of their tumour or from treatment.

Despite this, reduced IQ is normally only picked up as part of a full assessment of children in hospital by a clinical psychologist, which is time consuming and resource intensive.

The study demonstrated that the PedsQL questionnaire, filled out by the child/parent, and BRIEF and SDQ questionnaires completed by the child’s teacher, can predict a full scale IQ (FSIQ) of below 80 in the vast majority of cases. This score prioritises these children for further testing and follow up.

Researchers funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, Professor Colin Kennedy and Dr Kim Bull at the University of Southampton, led the study in which children aged 8-14 years with medulloblastoma or low grade cerebellar astrocytoma tumours were assessed using the three different questionnaires.

In the future, these questionnaires could be used in hospital or school settings to provide an early indication of difficulties with learning and perception in children affected by a brain tumour. This will allow for crucial early intervention by clinical psychologists and other healthcare professionals.

You can read more about the study in the journal’s adavanced access article (subscription required for full access).

One of the goals of our strategy is to halve the harm caused by brain tumours and their treatments. We have recently put out a call for research grant applications looking at quality of life in people affected by a brain tumour.