Cranial Irradiation Affects Child's School Performance

Girls more affected than boys and learning a foreign language may be especially difficult

TUESDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- Most children who undergo cranial irradiation therapy for the treatment of a brain tumor complete their secondary school education on time, but the treatment adversely affects their grades compared to their healthy counterparts, researchers report in the July 17 issue of Neurology.

Paivi Lahteenmaki, M.D., Ph.D., of Turku University Hospital in Turku, Finland, and colleagues matched 300 Finnish brain tumor patients with 1,473 controls of the same age, gender and neighborhood. The investigators compared the subjects' ninth grade school reports.

All but 6 percent of patients completed comprehensive education at the standard age, but their overall grades were lower than the controls, with the biggest difference in foreign language. Among children diagnosed before school age, the biggest difference between them and the controls and was seen in math, and patients and controls had the closest results in their native language.

There were also differences between genders, with young girls experiencing the greatest deficit versus their controls, while the impact on boys was greatest if they were treated at school age.

"Children diagnosed with brain tumors, even low-grade ones treated with surgery only, should be monitored closely during and after treatment to identify early signs of learning disabilities, and to maximize intervention strategies for the successful completion of scholastic goals," the authors conclude.

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