Painting a Picture of the Brain

The Children’s Cancer Foundation is helping fill a crucial gap in funding to enable neuropsychological assessment and monitoring of children during their cancer journey.  

Since 2008, the Foundation has funded neuropsychologists at The Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Children’s Hospital, investing more than $1.16 million for salary funding.

“Neuropsychologists study changes in thinking and behaviour that might arise from any form of known or suspected brain injury or illness,” said Dr Silvana Micallef, Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist at the Children’s Cancer Centre, Monash Children’s Hospital.

“Paediatric neuropsychologists are skilled in the assessment and understanding of the effects of brain disorders on children’s cognitive, behavioural, and emotional states.”

“The testing allows us to paint a picture of the brain, much the same way as any MRI or x-ray might. We can then readily identify areas of strength or weakness.”

Neuropsychological assessment and monitoring of children with cancer, particularly brain cancer is important, especially as young children grow and move through key developmental periods.

“In addition to the direct impact of cancer on the brain, the treatments used to combat cancer may also impact brain function. The two most common cancer diagnoses of childhood – brain tumours and leukaemia – are most frequently associated with long-term cognitive and behavioural changes.”

Children who undergo treatment for cancer may show problems in their thinking, learning and memory skills post-treatment.

“These difficulties may, in turn, have widespread consequences on other areas such as academic achievement, occupational success, and quality of life,” said Dr Micallef. 

Therefore ongoing neuropsychological assessment and intervention is essential, ensuring potential difficulties are addressed before they impact a child’s everyday functioning.

The Foundation would like to thank the Percy Baxter Charitable Trust and The J & Hope Knell Trust Fund for their funding support of $47,000, which was provided through the Perpetual IMPACT philanthropy program in 2016.