Off-Therapy Headaches in Pediatric Brain Tumor Patients: A Retrospective Review

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To determine the incidence, timing, and characteristics of headaches in a population of off-therapy pediatric brain tumor patients, a retrospective chart review was conducted on 3 subpopulations of children followed in a multidisciplinary neuro-oncology clinic in the Southeastern United States. Data collected included tumor type and location, treatment, associated symptoms, and description and timing of headaches. In all, 81 charts were reviewed from which headaches in 3 subtypes of tumors were identified (29 medulloblastomas, 36 cerebellar juvenile pilocytic astrocytomas [JPAs], and 16 craniopharyngiomas). Off-therapy headaches were noted in 6 (21%) of medulloblastomas, 10 (28%) of JPAs, and 19 (56%) of craniopharyngiomas. Almost half of those patients with prediagnosis headaches had recurrent off-therapy headaches. Given the incidence of this symptom, headache must be highlighted in posttreatment and late effects monitoring.Whether provided by the oncology team or primary care provider, headache assessment, treatment, and prevention counseling can be improved through utilization of newly developed tools and written educational materials. Experienced nurses can play key roles in this aspect of posttreatment pediatric care of brain tumor patients.