Understanding Brain Tumors & Child Cancer Survivorship
- TLC‘s Shauna Rae is a 23 year old with pituitary dwarfism that was caused by a childhood battle with brain cancer. Now, she’s letting fans in on her dating life.
- Rae’s type of brain cancer was a grade four malignant glioma. Gliomas are a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord. Grade four gliomas are also called glioblastomas.
- Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer. And though it technically has no cure, one of our experts says a diagnosis does NOT mean there is no room for hope. He told us that he’s looking into a new therapy that combines the modified poliovirus and immunotherapy along with his Duke colleagues.
The “I Am Shauna Rae” star was just 6 months old when her mother noticed the bump on her baby girl’s head that led to a grade four glioma diagnosis. For treatment, she underwent surgery and “three and a half years” of chemotherapy.Read More
She tried taking growth hormones throughout her childhood, but her daily injections became very painful once puberty hit. She stopped the hormone treatments at age 16, and came to the realization that her growth would be permanently stunted. The medical term for her condition is pituitary dwarfism.
“I was stuck,” she said.
Today, she stands 3-feet-10-inches tall, and her “I Am Shauna Rae” bio says she’s striving “to have the independence of an adult while trapped in the body of an 8-year-old.”
A part of that search for independence includes her embracing her dating life. In a previous conversation with PEOPLE, Rae explained of what she considers when dating.
“I have to have in-person conversations before we even think about going on a date,” she said. “I have to know how this person reacts in public areas.
“I have to know if they’re going to be able to deal with all the issues I have, because I can’t date someone unless they can take all of that on. And it’s a lot to ask someone to take on.”
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Fast forward to the current season of her show, and we’ve seen Rae started to potentially pursue a relationship with her current love interest, Dan.
“I see Shauna as this incredible 23-year-old woman who just happens to be a little bit short,” Dan said during a confessional on the show.
Dan, who’s a big traveller, also wants to potentially take Rae on a trip overseas.
“Dan wants to travel with me in the next couple of months,” Rae said on the show.
It’s unclear what will come of the two’s undefined relationship, but fans should be pleased to see Rae putting herself out there and seemingly finding a connection with someone who really cares about her. You can watch episodes of “I Am Shauna Rae” Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on TLC.
Understanding Brain Tumors
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), brain tumors account for 85 to 90 percent of all primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord and acts as the main “processing center” for the entirety of the nervous system, according to the American Cancer Society. Normal function of the brain and spinal cord can become difficult if there’s a tumor present that puts pressure on or spreads into nearby normal tissue.
Some types of brain and spinal cord tumors are more likely to spread into nearby parts of the brain or spinal cord than others. Slow-growing tumors may be considered benign, but even these tumors can cause serious problems.
Symptoms of brain tumors are often caused by increased pressure in the skull. This pressure can be caused by tumor growth, swelling in the brain or blockage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), according to the American Cancer Society.
It is important to note that brain tumor symptoms are not exclusive to brain tumors, but you should still contact your doctor if anything seems off. General symptoms may include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Balance problems
- Personality or behavior changes
- Drowsiness or even coma
Additionally, MD Anderson Cancer Center notes that changes in the ability to smell can be a sign of brain tumors, and, more specifically, “strange smells” can be a symptom of seizures which can result from brain tumors.
Still, it is important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to brain tumors. You should always consult with your doctor if any health problems arise.
Learning About Shauna Rae’s Brain Cancer
There are many different types of brain cancer, but Shauna Rae’s type of brain cancer was a grade four malignant glioma. Gliomas are a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord. Grade four gliomas are also called glioblastomas.
Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, is an aggressive form of brain cancer. It’s considered the most aggressive primary brain tumor, and it doesn’t technically have a cure. The standard of care treatment for someone with GBM usually consists of a surgical resection followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Nevertheless, brain cancer treatment options are expanding thanks to research. Dr. Henry Friedman, a neuro-oncologist at Duke University Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet that progress is being made.
“You are not dead just because you’ve been diagnosed with a glioblastoma,” he said.
Along with his Duke colleagues, he’s looking into a new therapy that combines the modified poliovirus and immunotherapy.
“The modified poliovirus is used to treat this tumor, by injecting it directly into the tumor, through a catheter. It is designed to lyse the tumor and cause the tumor cells to basically break up” he said. “I think that the modified poliovirus is going to be a game-changer in glioblastoma… but I should also say that its reach is now extending into melanoma soon to bladder cancer.”