Introduction Brain tumours are the 2nd most frequent childhood malignancy. There is a high mortality rate with around 60% survivors being left with a pronounced disability. Symptom interval is defined as the time period between symptom onset and diagnosis. In the UK, the median symptom interval is between 10 and 14 weeks. This is up to three times longer than in other countries. The HEADSMART-be brain tumour aware campaign was launched in June 2011 with the aim of reducing symptom interval to less than 5 weeks. In light of this, we have audited our practice.
Aims To determine the symptom interval of children presenting with brain tumours in Northern Ireland; the age, sex and clinical features at presentation and the outcome of these patients.
Methods The medical notes of all patients presenting between 01/01/09 and 31/12/10 were reviewed. Any data not available from medical notes was obtained by discussion with patients families.
Results 22 (55% male, 45% female) patients presented with tumours of the brain or spinal cord in 2009-10. This represented 35% of all paediatric solid tumour patients over the same time period. Median age at diagnosis was 7.3 years (7 weeks-12.8 years).
Median symptom interval was 9.6 (0.9-34.1) weeks. There was a wide range of symptoms at time of presentation. On average, children were seen 3.6 (2-8) times by a number of different healthcare professionals (HCPs) before diagnosis was made.
27% of patients have died; 14% are receiving palliative care and 5% are being treated for relapse.
Conclusions Brain and spinal cord tumours are most common in mid-childhood with a slight male predominance. These children present with a wide range of symptoms and are seen numerous times by varying HCPs before diagnosis is made. Symptom interval is lower than in the rest of the UK but still double that expected.