Brain Tumor (ER Story)

 
  Brain Tumor (ER Story) Emily Halevy | CWK Network Producer
 
 
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“But [headaches] can be a very serious symptom. That’s what we have to do is differentiate which of the children that have headaches have a serious problem.”

David Goo, MD, emergency pediatrics, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta


  Related Information What Parents Need To Know Resources

Headaches are a common and frustrating part of adolescence. In fact, according to the National Headache Foundation, approximately 20% of teenagers suffer from chronic headaches.

They all hurt, but some turn out to be far more serious than others.

“Hey, how long has your head been hurting you?” Dr. David Goo asks fifteen-year-old Scottie Smith.

He’s had headaches before, but nothing this bad.

As Dr. Goo explains, headaches are a common part of childhood, “Many, many, many children have headaches, and many headaches are related to tension, they may be related to migraines. Sometimes it’s due to your vision.” It could also be stress, a prior head injury, or elevated blood pressure, all reasonably easy to fix.

“But, it can be a very serious symptom. That’s what we have to do is differentiate which of the children that have headaches have a serious problem,” explains Goo.

The doctor says there are clues that it’s bad news, along with his headache, Scottie’s been lethargic and sick.

“When he tries to eat food he throws it up?” he confirms with Scottie’s mom.

“Scottie’s case was very classic in that when you have increased pressure inside your brain, one of the most common things that you do is throw up,” says Dr. Goo.

A CT scan shows a tumor is causing that increased pressure. What kind of tumor? What caused it? It will take more tests to find out, but right now, Scottie’s biggest problem is where it is.

“The primary risk of this, again, isn’t the actual tumor,” explains the on-call neurologist Albert Schuette, “it’s that the tumor is blocking up those fluid filled sacks inside the head, they’re called ventricles.”

“This tumor’s pressing on that area,” Schuette points out on the scan, “the single way for this fluid to flow out, that’s why these ventricles here are getting bigger.”

And that is causing enormous pressure inside his brain. So, there’s little choice, Scottie will need surgery.

“Alright man, I hope you’re- good luck with everything,” Dr. Goo says patting Scottie on the shoulder, “Alright, you’re a strong guy, I know you’re gonna do fine. Take care of yourself, alright.”

 
By Larry Eldridge
CWK Network, Inc.

There is a wide range of symptoms for brain tumors, and they vary on a case-by-case basis, but doctors at St. Jude’s Hospital list the following as some of the more prevalent:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired speech
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Impaired vision
  • Sudden vomiting
  • Poor coordination
  • Behavioral changes
  • Weakness in a limb or on one side of the body
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Tingling or weakness in the arms or legs
  • An increase in head size in infants
 
By Larry Eldridge
CWK Network, Inc.

After your child recovers from brain surgery, there are steps that can be taken to make his/her transition back to school go as smoothly as possible. Experts at the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation suggest the following:

  • Some medical centers provide an “education team” who can help prepare the class for your child’s return. School professionals working with your child and preparing classmates can ensure that your child is treated as normally as possible.
  • You can help by educating teachers about the consequences or side effects of the child’s treatment.
  • Accommodations in school may be needed:
    • Wheel chair accessibility for classrooms and toilet facilities
    • Special bathroom privileges
    • Playground or gym exemptions or adaptations
    • Opportunities to rest
    • Classroom seating arrangements for hearing, vision or attention problems
    • Homework and test modifications because extra time may be needed
    • Arrangements to take medications during the day
  • Meet with your child’s teacher, before the return to school and on an ongoing basis.

One of the most common question parents ask is, “How do I tell the difference between a serious illness and a minor one?” According to experts at St. Jude’s Hospital, it would be wise to get a doctor’s opinion (and sometimes a second or third opinion if the first isn’t satisfactory) if your child is suffering from the following:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue, listlessness or pallor
  • Swelling or lumps anywhere on the body
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Change in disposition, e.g., whining or crying spells, unusual irritability
  • Regression of toilet habits
  • Stumbling or falling
  • Double vision or other eye problems
  • Easy and frequent bruising
  • Nosebleeds or bleeding from any part of the body
 

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Emergency Services
St. Jude’s Hospital
Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation

 

Alcohol and Brain Development

 
  Alcohol and Brain Development Kristen DiPaolo | CWK Network
 
 
“The fact that our brains could stop developing is kinda scary.”
- Stephanie Sturges, 18

  Related Information What Parents Need To Know Resources

Can drinking stop the teenage brain from growing? 18-year-old Elisha Schuett says, “That wouldn’t surprise me at all if it affects your brain. I mean it’s a drug just like any other drug. It’s a drug.”

Duke University researchers scanned the brains of teens recovering from drinking problems. They found that the teens who drank a lot had a smaller prefrontal cortex than those who did not. 20-year-old Harry Schmidt says, “It’s really frightening. It makes me wish I hadn’t started drinking already, definitely.” 18-year-old Stephanie Sturges says, “The fact that our brains could stop developing is kinda scary.”

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for judgment—planning ahead—critical thinking. Dr. Michael Fishman, the director of the adult addiction medicine program at Ridgeview Institute in metro-Atlanta says, “If you have a prefrontal cortex that does not mature as it’s supposed to as an adolescent and young adult, it could possibly impede many different areas of our lives. We could become more impulsive, have poor decision-making, our judgment could be off, and we might not be able to learn as well as other people.”

And— the research suggests— the damage is permanent. Dr. Fishman says, “You only have so much time for the brain to mature, and the brain is not as forgiving of an organ as the liver that might regenerate after damage.”

He says parents should explain that the brain does not fully mature until age 25—and that binge drinking—-even once a month—may cause damage. Dr. Fishman says, “This really isn’t even a scare tactic. It just is what it is, and it’s very, very damaging.”

18-year-old Elisha Schuett says, “If you start young it’s going to plague you the rest of your life.” 19-year-old Kim Filipek says, “I’ve been in college, this is my second year. I’ve gone to one party. I don’t (drink) and partially because I know the effects that it has and it’s just not worth it.”

Researchers have long known that adult alcoholics have smaller brains. This is the first study to show that teens—with much shorter drinking histories—also have smaller brain measurements.
By Larry Eldridge
CWK Network, Inc.

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among teens. Seventy-one percent of eighth graders and 95 percent of high school seniors say that it would be easy to get alcohol if they wanted some. Although many youngsters try alcohol (52 percent of eighth-graders and 80 percent of high school seniors), most don’t drink regularly and disapprove of heavy drinking.

Research shows that adolescents may be more vulnerable to brain damage from excessive drinking than older drinkers. Alcohol impairs brain activity in the receptors responsible for memory and learning, and young people who binge drink could be facing serious brain damage today and increased memory loss in years to come. If one begins drinking at an early age, he/she is more likely to face alcohol addiction. Consider the following …

  • Imaging studies have revealed a connection between heavy drinking and physical brain damage.
  • Neither chronic liver disease nor alcohol-induced dementia, the most common symptoms of severe alcoholism, need be present for alcohol-induced, physical brain damage to occur.
  • Alcohol-induced brain damage usually includes extensive shrinkage in the cortex of the frontal lobe, which is the site of higher intellectual functions.
  • Shrinkage has also been observed in deeper brain regions, including the cerebellum, which helps regulate coordination and balance, and brain structures associated with memory.
  • Alcohol abstinence has shown positive results. Even three to four weeks without alcohol can reverse effects on memory loss and problem-solving skills.
 
By Larry Eldridge
CWK Network, Inc.

As a parent, it is extremely important to know the warning signs of alcoholism. The following list was created by the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

  • Physical – fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes, a lasting cough
  • Emotional – personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression, a general lack of interest
  • Family – starting arguments, breaking rules, withdrawing from the family
  • School – decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy, discipline problems
  • Social – problems with the law, changes to less conventional styles in dress and music, new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities

Adolescents have a better chance of recovery from alcohol-related damage because they have greater powers of recuperation. If you suspect your child has alcohol-related brain damage, it is imperative to have him or her assessed by a medical doctor or psychologist. Treatment depends on the individual and the type of brain damage sustained. People with impaired brain function can be helped. Often it is necessary to reduce the demands placed on the patient. Also, a predictable routine covering all daily activities can help. Consider the following points when easing your child’s routine …

  • Simplify information. Present one idea at a time.
  • Tackle one problem at a time.
  • Allow your child to progress at his or her own pace.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Avoid stressful situations.
  • Structure a schedule with frequent breaks and rest periods.
  • Consider joining an alcoholism support group.

Even if your child is not exhibiting any of the warning signs above, consider establishing the following strategies to reduce the risk of teen drinking in the future:

  • Establish a loving, trusting relationship with your child.
  • Make it easy for your teen to talk honestly with you.
  • Talk with your child about the facts regarding alcohol, reasons not to drink and ways to avoid drinking in difficult situations.
  • Keep tabs on your teen’s activities, and join with other parents in making common policies about teen alcohol use.
  • Develop family rules about teen drinking and establish consequences.
  • Set a good example regarding your own alcohol use and your response to teen drinking.
  • Encourage your child to develop healthy friendships and fun alternatives to drinking.
  • Know whether your child is at high risk for a drinking problem. If so, take steps to lessen the risk.
  • Know the warning signs of a teen drinking problem and act promptly to get help for your child.
  • Believe in your own power to help your child.
 

Alcoholism Home Page
Better Health Channel
National Youth Violence Prevention Center
Psychological A ssessment R esearch and T reatment S ervices
American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency
WebMD Health
Alcohol Abuse Prevention: Your Life, Your Choice!

 

Brainy Immigrant Kids

 
  Brainy Immigrant Kids Marc Straus | CWK Network
 
 
  We are different by culture but not by genetics. It’s all about the messages the children have been sent over time.”

- Deborah Christy, educator -

  Related Information What Parents Need To Know Resources

Where will the next Nobel-winning scientists come from? Look at the finalists for the major math and science competitions, and you’ll see a long list of kids of immigrant parents.

Josh Jeng is one of those kids. He’s an A student. He’s won awards for karate, wrestling and piano. But most nights, his priority is homework. “ On average I’ll probably spend at least an hour and a half doing homework and studying. If need be, maybe I’ll go up to three hours at times.”

Josh is a child of immigrant parents. “My husband came from Taiwan. I’m Chinese but was born and raised in Korea,” explains Jen Yu, Josh’s mother.

A new study says kids of immigrant parents excel not only in school, but in all sorts of competitions, ranging from music to science fairs to spelling bees, and not because they are inherently smarter.

Deborah Christy, an educator who has taught immigrant kids, says, “We are different by culture but not by genetics, and so there is no biological difference. It’s all about the messages the children have been sent over time.”

Such messages often are rooted in their struggle just to get to America, a trip often paid for by their families in their homeland. “For them to support us to come to this country to get that higher education was an enormous burden for the family. Then, in turn, we felt like we have to do our best to get the results,” says Jen Yu.

Deborah Christy says that family history is a major motivation for immigrant families. “On some level, they have passed that drive onto their children. Do this one thing, and do it absolutely the best. Not the best of your ability. But the best it can be done.”

So Josh works hard, because his parents expect it. And because his vision of the future isn’t tomorrow or next weekend, it’s the rest of his life. “So it’s whether you want to have a hard life now, and invest in the future,” he says, “or have an easy life now, and then have a hard future.”


By Amye Walters
CWK Network, Inc.

The children of immigrants are becoming the top math and science students in the United States, dominating academic competitions and representing the strongest hope the nation has of keeping an edge in high-tech and biomedical fields. The National Foundation for American Policy found that foreign-born professionals and students are contributing more to American society than first thought, and that their children are the nation’s rising intellectual superstars.

  • Children of immigrants account for 60 percent of the finalists in the 2004 Intel Science Talent Search. In 2003, three of the top four finalists were foreign born.
  • Children of immigrants account for 65 percent of the U.S. Math Olympiad’s top scorers.
  • Children of immigrants account for 46 percent of the U.S. Physics Team members.
  • Over half of the engineers with doctorates working in the United States are foreign-born.
  • Forty-five percent of math and computer scientists with doctorates were born outside the country.
 
By Amye Walters
CWK Network, Inc.

Family emphasis on education is nothing unusual for immigrant families. Experts agree that the only differences between children of foreign and domestic parents are cultural. Since no biological differences exist, the only element for these youngsters’ success is the values instilled from their families. Many immigrants site their struggle to have a life in America and the blessings of our country’s freedoms as driving factors in their success.

  • Encourage your child to participate in academic, not just athletic, groups and clubs at school.
  • Parents can read newspapers or books to model educational behavior.
  • Set aside learning time every evening. Adults can read or finish work brought home from the office while children study and tend to their homework.
  • Reward your child’s academic achievements.
  • Demonstrate a strong work ethic. Children will see that academic and financial successes are interrelated and important in the future.
 

National Foundation for American Policy
The Plain Dealer

Brain Food

   
Education Feature
Brain Food
By Yvette J. Brown
CWK Producer
 

“Junk food’s good. If it helps you with your tests – go for it!”
-Elizabeth, 14-

Teenagers love pizza, soda and potato chips. But can those junk foods actually boost brainpower?

16-year old Jacinda is a little skeptical.

“Eating junk food before a test? Score higher? I don’t think that’s true,” she says.

Tiffany, also 16, is also a little unsure.

“I don’t know because I eat junk food all the time before a big test, like a bag of chips or something, a candy bar, and my grades seem to be the same,” she says.

But there may be some merit to the junk food theory, according to University of Florida researchers who looked at eating patterns for 23 random school districts in Virginia.

The scientists found that students given a high-calorie, low-nutrition lunch on standardized test days scored 11 percent higher on math and six percent higher on English and social studies sections than kids who ate a healthier lunch.

“I’m not surprised at all at the link between eating and improved test scores,” says Kathleen Zelman, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Zelman says the glucose from carbohydrate rich foods is fuel to the brain.

“Your brain wants that glucose. It needs the glucose,” she says. “That’s the fuel to help you think better, concentrate, sit still and stay focused for that test.”

“I tried [eating junk food before a test] before. It’s helped me stay awake and start doing better,” says 17-year old Jeremiah.

All the fat and sugar in junk food, of course, can give a temporary surge, but Zelman urges balance.

“As a dietician of course, I’d much rather see kids eat more healthfully,” she says. “But the bottom line is they need to eat before those tests. Is it better to have a well-balanced meal with fruits and vegetables and whole grains and milk? Absolutely!”

But, in a pinch, Zelman says junk food will do just fine.

And that is just fine by 14-year old Elizabeth: “Junk food’s good. If it helps you with your tests— go for it!”

 

By Kim Ogletree
CWK Network, Inc.

Serving kids extra calories at lunchtime appears to be school officials’ latest attempt at boosting students’ scores on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, according to a report released by the National Bureau of Economic Research. For their study, University of Florida researchers evaluated school lunch menus from 23 randomly selected districts in Virginia during the 1999-2000 academic year.

Schools increased the amount of calories by offering lunch items high in carbohydrates, which contain glucose, a sugar known to be effective in temporarily sharpening thinking skills. Comparing the calorie count in school lunches on days when fifth-graders were given their SOLs to the calories in meals given on non-test days, the researchers found that lunches averaged 761 calories before the testing period, 863 calories on test days and 745 calories after testing was completed. The researchers conclude the approach seemed to help test scores as those schools serving high-calorie lunches reported higher student pass rates of 11 percent for mathematics, six percent for English and six percent for social studies.

Is this practice of serving students carbohydrate-heavy lunches on test days cause for alarm? Not as long as it is done so in moderation and in conjunction with a well-balanced diet and exercise, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Everyone needs carbohydrates, which the body breaks down into glucose to power its cells. However, cells can only use so much glucose at one time. The body stores leftover glucose – called glycogen – in the cells of the liver and muscles. Any glycogen that does not fit in those cells is turned to fat.

It is also important that these lunches rely more heavily on complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) describes sugars as simple carbohydrates, appropriately named because the body digests them quickly and easily. While these types of carbohydrates, found in candy, cookies and soda, provide a quick energy boost, they often come with lots of fat and a lack of important vitamins the body needs. Complex carbohydrates, found in breads, cereals and pasta, take longer to digest but provide the body with vitamins and minerals. And even the USDA’s Food Pyramid suggests most calories should come from complex carbohydrates, which provide energy specifically for the brain.

 

As a parent, how can you determine whether your child is eating a healthy school lunch? By law, school lunches must meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend no more than 30 percent of an individual’s calories come from fat, and less than ten percent from saturated fat. Regulations also establish a standard for school lunches to provide one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances of protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium and calories.

If your child’s school lunches are lacking in the nutrition department, the negative health consequences for your child could be severe. The Center for Weight and Health at the University of California, Berkley, says that malnutrition can restrict brain development, resulting in impaired learning and cognitive function. Consider these additional ways in which nutrition can affect your child’s body:

  • Inadequate diet, nutritional deficiencies and hunger have been shown to decrease attentiveness, motivation and other behaviors critical to school performance.
  • Deficiencies in specific nutrients, such as iron, have an immediate effect on the ability to concentrate. In fact, mild forms of anemia found in an otherwise healthy population of children have been shown to negatively impact IQ.
  • Diet contributes to four of the seven leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes – and increases the risk of numerous other diseases and conditions, including hypertension, liver disease, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty substances in the inner lining of an artery) and obesity.
  • Scientific evidence suggests fruit and vegetable intake alone protect against cancer, heart attack, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis, stroke, diabetes, cataracts, asthma, bronchitis and obesity.
  • Healthy eating not only reduces mortality but also improves quality of life by improving energy and sense of well-being.

While school lunches must meet federal nutrition requirements, decisions about what specific foods are served and how they are prepared are left up to individual school food authorities. Therefore, it is important to get involved with your child’s school so you can monitor what he or she is eating for lunch. The U.S. government’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Department offers the following advice for checking up on your child’s school diet:

  • Do lunch with your child. Join them while eating breakfast or lunch at school. See what the meals are like, and notice the atmosphere. If you do not like what you see, do something.
  • Discuss your principles. Go to the principal. Discuss the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. Suggest programs, ask for cooperation and follow through with your ideas.
  • Team up with food service staff. Visit the school cafeteria and get to know the staff. Let them know you value their services and appreciate good daily nutrition for your child.
  • Throw a tasting party. Volunteer to organize a classroom tasting party to introduce and encourage nutritious new foods students may not have tried.
  • Serve your child food for thought. Make sure they appreciate how healthy breakfasts and lunches serve their mind as well as their body.
  • Talk out of school. Make your opinions heard. Talk to other parents, and work with your PTA and school board to support healthy school meals. You can even form a parent advisory committee for school meals.
  • Know what’s for lunch. Get a weekly menu of school meals. Ask for the nutrition facts so you can be sure the menu meets the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Keep it magnetized to your refrigerator and discuss all of the healthy choices with your child.

If your child prefers to brown bag it to school, pack meals that are easy to prepare and fun to eat, as well as healthful, safe and nutritious. The ADA says sandwiches, raw veggies, crackers, string cheese, whole fruit and pudding are fun foods that still supply good nutrition. To boost your child’s intake of complex carbohydrates, you might try incorporating more vegetables, fruits and cereals into your child’s diet. The ADA also recommends letting your child help plan and prepare school lunches. When he or she is involved, the chances are your child will resist trading carrots for cookies.

 

American Dietetic Association
Center for Weight and Health
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
National Bureau of Economic Research
University of Florida
U.S. Department of Agriculture