DIPG is the leading cause of death from pediatric brain tumors. A child diagnosed with DIPG today faces the same prognosis as a child diagnosed 40 years ago. There is still no effective treatment and no chance of survival.
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What is DIPG?
Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is a type of high grade brain tumour. DIPGs originate in an area of the brain stem called the pons.
The pons is an area deep within the lower part of the brain which is responsible for a number of critical bodily functions such as breathing, swallowing, eye movement, eye sight, balance and heartbeat.
DIPG affects children almost exclusively and accounts for roughly 10-15% of brain tumors in children mainly between 4 – 11 years of age.
More about DIPG.
Below are the different structures which might be affected by DIPG tumour growth and the side effects which might develop as a result:
Long Tract – This refers to a bundle of nerves which passes from the brain down through the spinal cord to the muscles of the body, controlling movement. Due to the long tract passing through the pons, a DIPG might cause arm and leg weakness.
Cranial Nerves – These nerves which leave the brain control our senses and facial muscles. If the tumour presses against the nerves it may cause abnormal alignment of the eyes and/or double vision, weakness of facial muscles or facial asymmetry.
Cerebellum – This is an area at the back of the brain. If this area is affected by a DIPG, the child may develop problems with co-ordination, walking and speaking.
If a brain tumour is suspected, the child will be sent for an MRI scan to confirm a DIPG is present. Unfortunately, due to the tumour being so close to vital structures, it cannot be removed.
The standard treatment for DIPGs is radiotherapy, which is usually administered over 3 to 6 weeks depending on the type of radiotherapy that is deemed suitable. The child also might be given steroids during this time to reduce the pressure caused by the tumour and radiation treatment.