A high school football player was diagnosed with brain cancer while he was getting a check-up for a concussion.
Antonio ‘Tony’ Pena, from Grafton, Massachusetts, who is a linebacker, suffered the head trauma during a game against a rival school on September 21.
But the 17-year-old became concerned when he experienced numbness and tingling on the left side of his body for about three weeks, which is longer that symptoms of a concussion usually last, reported The Metro West Daily News.
Pena underwent an MRI last month, which revealed a rare brain tumor, known as gliobastoma, on his brain stem.
He is now undergoing radiation, which will be followed by chemotherapy and says that – despite the slim, survival odds – he remains hopeful about his outcome.
Antonio ‘Tony’ Pena, 17, from Grafton, Massachusetts, suffered a concussion during a football game on September 21. Pictured: Pena, right, with his date to junior prom
He was concerned after his numbness and tingling continued for about three weeks after the incident. Pictured: Pena during a football game
Pena told The Daily News that breaking the news to his family, friends and teammates was hard.
‘It was hard. So I had my mom tell my coach,’ he told the newspaper.
‘But then I faced it and I did go into the locker room [and] I talked to them. I told them. But yeah, it was hard.’
Gliobastoma is a rare, aggressive type of brain tumor that is found in the brain or on the spinal cord.
It’s the same type of tumor that led to the deaths of Senator John McCain and former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden.
The tumors form from star-shaped cells in the brain known as astrocytes and make their own blood supply, allowing them to grow quickly.
Symptoms include constant painful headaches, vomiting, seizures, double vision and trouble speaking.
Approximately 14,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.
Treatment options to slow and control tumor growth include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – but the cancer usually recurs.
The tumors are grade IV, the most deadly form, and the five-year survival rate is only five percent.
The incidence of pediatric high-grade gliomas is less than one per 100,000, according to 2012 data from the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States.
Among children, the five-year survival rate is less than 20 percent.
An MRI revealed a tumor on Pena’s brain stem known as glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Pena has started radiation, after which he will undergo chemotherapy for a year. Pictured, left and right: Pena with his father
Pena is currently trying to find a home tutor to help him complete his remaining classes for senior year. Pictured: Pena, center, with his father, left, and his father’s girlfriend
‘He was first diagnosed with a head concussion. So it was a little shocking,’ Pena’s mother Lena Laferriere, who is deaf, told The Daily News through an interpreter.
‘I’m very grateful, because had it not been for the head injury, we probably would have never found out, or his condition would have become worse and it could be fatal even.’
Doctors cannot operate on the tumor because of its location, so Pena will be undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
According to The Daily News, he will first undergo radiation for six to seven weeks before starting year-long chemotherapy.
‘It’s going to be a long fight,’ Pena said. ‘It’s going to be about a year of treatment and I will begin chemotherapy in January.’
Pena is currently trying to find a home tutor to help him complete his remaining classes for senior year, but says he remains positive.
‘[Doctors] said that I had a good chance because I’m a young healthy boy,’ he told The Daily News. ‘They said that I had a good chance at beating it.’