by Mary Beth Sammons
It's a Friday night, and Lauren Ashley just wants to hang out with friends. But instead, the 15-year-old high school freshman is at home buried in homework.
"I don't get to hang out like normal kids," says Ashley (pictured). "And other kids are always saying, 'You don't look like you are sick,' or 'Well, you don't have cancer.'"
The teenager described the headaches, which wake her up most nights, as feeling as if she is "being hit in the head." "I wake up exhausted," she says.
The massive headaches have created an endless 10-year nightmare of medical tests, resulting in more than 30 surgeries and 50 hospitalizations, which have prevented her from attending more than two hours of school each day. She is also tutored privately. Recently, the dizziness and headaches forced her to quit her favorite pastime, tap dancing.
"They told us [initially] she had a brain tumor," says her mom, Diane, who is a pediatric nurse.
But Ashley doesn't. What she does have is a phantom brain tumor, or pseudotumor cerebri. Diagnosed during a routine eye exam, Ashley is one of a fast-growing number of mostly adolescents and some younger children who are being diagnosed with this puzzling and complex condition that appears to be — but is not — a tumor. The symptoms are characterized by chronically increased pressure in the head and include severe headaches, dizziness and, in the most debilitating cases, loss of eyesight.
With a frightening number of children — 80 last year alone — diagnosed at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, the facility recently launched the first clinic in the country dedicated to treating pseudotumors in children.
Diagnoses of pseudotumor cerebri have increased dramatically in recent years, says Dr. E. Steve Roach, chief of neurology and vice chairman of pediatrics at Nationwide Children's and professor of pediatrics and neurology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
"We're still unaware of the precise reason for the increase in the number of incidences in children and especially adolescents," he says. "But we have pinpointed that the leading risk factor is childhood obesity, with two-thirds of the cases attributed to that. And that leads to an obvious assumption that the increase in childhood obesity is propelling the spike. Traditionally, this has been a condition found in adults."
In the last year alone, the hospital has identified dozens of teens and small children with the illness, more than Roach has seen in the last 15 years. The researchers hope to study the causes and to investigate the other one-third of cases, like Ashley's, that do not fall under the obesity risk factor, he says.
"Through the clinic, we can find kids with this condition earlier and get them treated," says Roach. "I mean, it's really a crying shame to have an 8-year-old lose their vision when we could prevent it."
The hospital's pseudotumor clinic will also simplify treatment for children and teens suffering from the debilitating condition. The cooperative of eye doctors, surgeons and imaging specialists working in one place toward one goal will lessen the burden of the condition on patients that typically take dozens of medicines, sometimes endure countless surgeries and travel extensively to see different specialists.
Currently hard to diagnose, pseudotumor cerebri is typically suspected after a child with headaches is found to have optic nerve swelling, says Roach. The diagnosis is confirmed after a brain scan eliminates a tumor and the pressure elevation is confirmed. After that, the child's visual function is closely monitored, and any underlying risk factors are eliminated. While medications are typically administered to relieve the pressure, surgical procedures to lower the intracranial pressure or to prevent pressure damage of the optic nerve are prescribed as needed.
"This has been very tough on Lauren," says Diane, who helped start an organization called IHGraymatters, dedicated to connecting other families whose children have pseudotumors to resources.
"We thought it was the worst thing we could ever hear when we were told Lauren had a brain tumor," she said. "If we only knew then what the endless battle would be like. Now we just want to help make it a little easier on other families to get a diagnosis and get on the road to treatment much faster."
Dr. George Carlo EMF Cell Phone Dangers Interview
How Wireless Frequencies Affect You – Information from Dr. Carlo
Dr. Carlo’s recent research has shown that microwave frequencies from cellphones and wireless devices are recognized as a form of invader by the receptors located on the cell membranes. The affected cells send messages to surrounding cells, as well as to the cells’ own internal cytoplasm, to implement defense mechanisms.
One of the results of this defense response is that the active transport channels from the cell membranes are shut down and cells lose their ability to communicate with each other, so cells that are supposed to work together as a system, cannot. The message that needs to go to the immune system, for example, to come destroy and eliminate the toxic wastes, never gets there, and the self-repair mechanisms the body would otherwise call upon are now disrupted and malfunction.
In addition, nutrients are not able to penetrate into the cell, and waste products are not able to be eliminated. Among the waste products trapped inside the cell walls are free radicals, toxins which damage the affected cells and more importantly, damage DNA. It is a well established fact that DNA damage can lead to cancer. In addition, any disease that is characteristic of old age is seen much earlier in people who are exposed to this type of toxic radiation, which includes everyone.
Power Output of the Cell Phone is NOT a Indicator of Risk
The important thing in terms of damaging health effects from wireless frequencies is NOT the power output of the microwave signal coming from the device, as is commonly believed, but the SHAPE OF THE WAVE and its PROXIMITY to biological tissue, according to Dr. Carlo. “The mechanism is not dependent on intensity,” says Dr. Carlo. “The mechanism is dependent on the type of radio wave that carries the information. There is NO safe level. We have not identified ANY level that will not trigger that (harmful) response by the cell mechanism.”