June 8, 2016, by Emma Thorne

Praise for new national children’s brain tumour initiative

Cancer experts at the University have welcomed a new national initiative aimed at raising awareness of children’s brain tumours.

The Royal College for General Practitioners (RCGP) has announced ‘Brain Tumours in Children’ as a new clinical special project which will run from 2016 until 2017. The overall aims of this project are to educate primary care professionals about the symptoms and signs of childhood brain tumours, and to empower families and young people to seek appropriate healthcare advice.

Dr Shaarna Shanmugavadivel, Clinical Education Fellow at the University’s Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre, said: “We are really excited about the opportunity the RCGP Special Project provides. Educating GP’s across the UK about the signs and symptoms of brain tumours, is another step towards achieving our aim of reducing the diagnostic interval for children and young people with brain tumours to 4 weeks.”

The research centre is the founder and partner of the HeadSmart: Be Brain Tumour Aware campaign, which aims to improve diagnosis of childhood brain tumours in the UK.

Dr Shanmugavadivel added: “Brain tumours are the commonest cancer cause of death in children. Early diagnosis is crucial in preventing worse neurological outcome in survivors, however diagnosis is difficult as the presenting symptoms can be non-specific.

“We appreciate that as a GP, trying to establish whether a child needs a brain scan to exclude or diagnose a brain tumour in a ten-minute consultation is incredibly challenging. The HeadSmart campaign wishes to bring decision support tools to the attention of as many GPs as possible through this programme, and has already been associated with a halving of the Total Diagnostic Interval since 2009 across the UK. We hope to reduce this interval further to benefit the children and families who are sadly affected with brain tumour.”

Dr Rebecca Chellaswamy, who has been appointed as the College’s Clinical Lead for Brain Tumours in Children, has had a longstanding interest in young people’s health and has been a member of the RCGP’s Adolescent Health Group since 2013.

Explaining the need for this clinical focus, Dr Chellaswamy said: “Until recently, the UK took far longer to diagnose brain tumours than many other countries and a delay in diagnosis can lead to increased mortality and long term morbidity.

“The RCPCH have published guidance on signs and symptoms which could indicate a brain tumour and these are very useful in the primary care setting as well as in paediatrics as they give clear, succinct and evidence-based guidance on which children require imaging/referral and which children can be safely reassured.  In this post, I will be involved in improving awareness of guidelines and resources amongst both primary care and the public in order to improve clinical outcomes in this relatively rare but important area.”

Find out more about the RCGP’s Clinical Priorities Programme and the HeadSmart Project.

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