Neon Roberts 'should have radiotherapy' for tumour

Sally Roberts says her son should not have radiotherapy because it could cause him long-term harm

A seven-year-old boy at the centre of a legal dispute over cancer treatment should be given radiotherapy as soon as possible, a High Court judge has heard.

Neon Roberts underwent surgery on a brain tumour on Wednesday against his mother's wishes.

Sally Roberts, 37, wanted a delay until more doctors had been consulted, and does not want him to have radiotherapy because she has future health concerns.

Doctors said Neon's condition would worsen without further treatment.

Anti-vomit pills stopped

The hearing in London was earlier told by Ian Peddie, QC for Ms Roberts, that her son's operation on Wednesday "went well."

The court heard that during the surgery evidence was found of a tumour nodule which had been predicted.

Neon and Sally Roberts Doctors and Sally Roberts (right) did not agree on Neon's next treatment

However, tests on spinal fluid showed no evidence of cancerous cells elsewhere.

Doctors said they believed it would not be in Neon's interests to delay preparation for radiotherapy as it would worsen his prognosis.

They said radiotherapy normally took two weeks preparation but, in this case, they wanted to start as soon as possible.

One doctor said the impact of radiotherapy should not be overstated because "we use lower doses now".

Mrs Roberts previously told the court she was not a "bonkers mother" and she feared treatment such as radiotherapy could do Neon long-term harm including causing brain damage or infertility.

The court also heard Mrs Roberts had refused permission for her son to be given medicine in the last few days to stop him vomiting.

While hearing evidence from a child cancer specialist about the benefit and risks of radiotherapy, the doctor said research showed the treatment proposed for Neon tended to lead to a "modest" decline in IQ of maybe five points.

"I would expect the patient to go to mainstream school - with support. My experience is that they can take exams," he said.

Analysis - radiotherapy

Radiotherapy can cause a number of short-term side effects including hair loss on the area of the head being treated, sickness and tiredness.

Sometimes it can make symptoms worse before they get better because it causes swelling, which increases pressure in the head. This can be treated with steroids.

Some patients go on to develop new symptoms weeks to months after treatment, which include poor appetite, sleepiness, lack of energy and a worsening of old symptoms. This may be due to damage caused to nerve tissue or healthy brain cells, and the symptoms usually disappear over time.

A minority of patients develop long-term, enduring side effects, which are caused by more permanent changes in the brain tissue.

These can include problems thinking clearly, poor memory, confusion, and personality changes.

These symptoms are less common than they once were because modern radiotherapy can be delivered very precisely to diseased areas.

They tend to be more common in children, whose nervous systems are still developing.

It is important to stress that for most the benefits of radiotherapy far outweigh the risks.

When being cross-examined by counsel for Sally Roberts, the doctor was asked about alternative treatment and therapies.

The doctor replied that health staff were open to families interested in using complementary therapies alongside conventional treatment.

Giving evidence later, Mrs Roberts said she objected to anti-vomiting drugs because she was not sure Neon needed them and she was concerned he was being given medicines unnecessarily.

She said she knew about "thousands of studies" of children being treated without radiotherapy, but added she had not had time to find experts to testify.

Mr Justice Bodey said the court cold not have random studies presented but said Mrs Roberts should select one study she most wanted to rely on.

Neon's father Ben, who lives in London and is separated from Ms Roberts, has agreed to radiotherapy but is "apprehensive", the court heard previously.

When asked if he should have overriding consent over treatment, Mrs Roberts replied: "But I'm his mother."

The court heard Mr Roberts would like custody of Neon for the duration of any treatment. Mrs Roberts said she had no objection if she could visit daily.

Mr Justice Bodey said he was minded to make a default ruling on Neon's continuing treatment unless Mrs Roberts could produce someone who could offer other treatment that was in Neon's best interests.

Mrs Roberts wanted to seek an adjournment until January but that was rejected by Mr Justice Bodey, who said he was likely to give judgement on Friday.

The NHS asked for a final order to be made on Thursday.

The judge ruled on Tuesday the surgery should go ahead after an MRI scan revealed a residual tumour left from the boy's last operation.

Earlier in the month New Zealand-born Mrs Roberts went into hiding with her son, sparking a nationwide search before both were found unharmed.

A judge has previously ruled the hospital should not be identified.

The hearing continues.

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