The challenges of treating central nervous system (CNS) tumors in young children are many. These include age-specific tumor characteristics, limited treatment options, and susceptibility of the developing CNS to cytotoxic therapy. The aim of this study was to analyze the long-term survival, health-related, and educational/occupational outcomes of this vulnerable patient population.
Retrospective study of 128 children diagnosed with a CNS tumor under 5 years of age at a single center in Switzerland between 1990 and 2019.
Median age at diagnosis was 1.81 years [IQR, 0.98–3.17]. Median follow-up time of surviving patients was 8.39 years [range, 0.74–23.65]. The main tumor subtypes were pediatric low-grade glioma (36%), pediatric high-grade glioma (11%), ependymoma (16%), medulloblastoma (11%), other embryonal tumors (7%), germ cell tumors (3%), choroid plexus tumors (6%), and others (9%). The 5-year overall survival (OS) was 78.8% (95% CI, 71.8–86.4%) for the whole cohort. Eighty-seven percent of survivors > 5 years had any tumor- or treatment-related sequelae with 61% neurological complications, 30% endocrine sequelae, 17% hearing impairment, and 56% visual impairment at last follow-up. Most patients (72%) attended regular school or worked in a skilled job at last follow-up.
Young children diagnosed with a CNS tumor experience a range of complications after treatment, many of which are long-lasting and potentially debilitating. Our findings highlight the vulnerabilities of this population, the need for long-term support and strategies for rehabilitation, specifically tailored for young children.