How Are Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children Treated?

Children with central nervous system tumors may be treated by surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. Treatment is different for different kinds of tumors. Each child's treatment must be approached individually to give the child the best chance of cure. Long-term side effects of the treatment must also be considered. Because of this, children under 3 years old are usually not given radiation therapy. Instead, the treatment relies mainly on removing the tumor by surgery and chemotherapy.

This approach is based on the desire to delay the need for radiation therapy, which can cause developmental delay and problems with intellectual development. Even in older children, however, radiation treatment can cause problems. Radiation oncologists (doctors specializing in treatment of tumors with radiation) try very hard to limit the amount of normal brain tissue that they treat.