Radiation therapy (RT) is integral in the treatment of pediatric brain tumors; however, photon RT (XRT) often results in intellectual decline, executive functioning (EF) deficits, academic underachievement/failure, and lower health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Proton RT (PRT) provides more targeted therapy, minimizing damage to the developing brain, yet few studies have examined its neuropsychological effects. This study investigated the role of EF in academic skills and HRQoL in a sample of children treated with PRT. A mediation model was proposed in which academic skills mediated relations between aspects of EF and school-based HRQoL (sHRQoL). Sixty-five children (x̅age = 12.4; 43.9% male) treated with PRT completed follow-up neuropsychological testing as part of routine care. Measures included assessment of intellectual functioning, EF, attention, and academic skills (reading, math, spelling). Parents reported on children’s EF and attention problems. sHRQoL was assessed via child self-report. Children who underwent PRT demonstrated relatively intact intelligence, academics, attention, EF, and sHRQoL, but were at risk for reduced processing speed. Poorer working memory and processing speed were related to lower sHRQoL. Better EF and faster processing speed were associated with better academic skills, which were linked to higher sHRQoL. Better working memory was associated with better math performance, which was linked to higher sHRQoL; this relationship did not hold for reading or spelling. Results highlight the importance of EF skills in academic performance and sHRQoL, and the need for routine screening of EF deficits and proactive supports. Supports may include cognitive rehabilitation and in-class accommodations. Overall, results compare favorably to XRT outcomes reported in the literature.
Journal of Neuro-Oncology – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 6, 2017
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