Symptoms and Misdiagnosis
- Kane Allock, 15, experienced constant headaches and was misdiagnosed with long Covid until his mom, Nicki, urged doctors to further assess his symptoms.
- The teen endured headaches after testing positive for coronavirus in December 2021. His symptoms worsened by April when doctors discovered a brain tumor called a low-grade (non-cancerous) pilocytic astrocytoma.
- Headaches are listed as a symptom of both long Covid and brain tumors.
Nicki was told her son’s migraines were likely connected to Covid and prescribed him pain medication for vertigo, a feeling of spinning when you’re not moving. However, when the pain didn’t subside by April 2022, Kane’s headache’s worsened and his dizziness made it difficult for him to walk.Read More
“But when we were being booked into the assessment ward, I spoke to a nurse who seemed to take us more seriously and I told her I’d noticed a dent at the back of Kane’s head,” she continued.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains that common symptoms of long Covid are brain fog, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath — and about 2.5% of people who have had Covid seem to end up with lingering symptoms. Although Kane’s headaches seemed like they were caused by long Covid, he and his mom soon learned the truth.
An MRI discovered a build-up of pressure on Kane’s brain as a result of excess cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). A histology report later confirmed Kane had a brain tumor called a low-grade (non-cancerous) pilocytic astrocytoma. Two days after Kane’s mom spoke with the nurse, her son underwent a successful 7.5-hour operation at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, England, to completely remove a tumor.
“Kane was discharged just four days after the operation, but on 25 April, he had a wound leak, which meant another trip back to Alder Hey, where he had a couple of extra stitches added,” his mom explained. “The wound continued to leak and during a routine follow-up appointment on 27 April, it was decided Kane needed to go back into surgery to re-suture the wound.”
Kane, of Crewe, Cheshire, was eventually sent home on May 2, after a spinal drain was used to reduce additional fluid built up in his brain.
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 nervous system. 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.
There are many different types of brain and spinal cord tumors. Some 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.
General Symptoms of Brain Tumors
Symptoms of brain tumors, as a whole, 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.
General symptoms may include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Balance problems
- Personality or behavior changes
- Drowsiness or even coma
But it is important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to brain tumors. Still, you should always consult with your doctor if any health problems arise.
How to Cope When Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Cancer
If your child is diagnosed with childhood cancer, it may seem like the dreams you have for your family are falling apart. It’s important to try to keep a level head after you’ve fully felt all of your emotions around the diagnosis.
But it’s also important to feel all of those emotions that come along with receiving a childhood cancer diagnosis.
As a parent, remember that you’re not alone in this journey; your child’s oncologist and care team are there to guide you and provide information and answers.
Oncological social workers are a fantastic resource to help you sort out the financial aspects of cancer treatment, as well as other cancer-related issues. Skilled psychologists and counselors can be accessed to help you maintain good mental health through your child’s cancer journey, to the best of your ability.
And don’t be afraid to reach out to your support system — friends, family, etc. — for help through this process. No one expects you to handle everything on your own.
Brain Cancer Survivor Shares Coping Mechanisms
Contributing: Abigail Seaberg