Prior Brain Tumors Affect School Performance

Author:  Falishia Sloan

Institution:  Eastern Virginia Medical School
Date:  July 2007

A study published in the July 17 issue of Neurology showed that students with previous brain tumors performed markedly worse in school, with females affected more than males and foreign language suffering more than other subjects. The report cards of 300 ninth graders with previous brain tumors treated with surgery or radiation therapy were compared to 1,473 healthy children in Finland. The researchers said that this is the first time brain tumor survivors have had their grades and subjects studied.

The tumor sufferers' performance in all subjects was considerably lower than that of healthy children. The most noticeable difference was females' performance in foreign languages; of the females studied who previously had brain tumors, more than 58 percent received scores below an 8, where 4 is failing and 10 is excellent.

"These results will help us identify brain tumor survivors who are at greatest risk for school failure and may need remedial help as early as possible," explained study author Päivi Lähteenmäki, MD, PhD of Turku University Hospital in Turku, Finland. "It appears verbal performance is the area most seriously affected for brain tumor survivors. This may be a reflection of a diminished ability to learn new information."

Lähteenmäki said that females are more sensitive than males to radiation therapy, and this sensitivity causes greater adverse effects, including the cognitive decline that is responsible for lower levels of performance.

Despite the fact that students with a history of a treated brain tumor had a lower performance in school, the study also showed that 94 percent of these students still completed Finnish comprehensive school's ninth grade at the regular age. "These results are encouraging, considering a prior study in the United States showed brain tumor survivors were significantly less likely to finish high school compared to their siblings," Lähteenmäki noted.

Written by Falishia Sloan