Treatment for childhood brain tumors is based on the type of tumor, the tumor location, age of the child and other factors. Because of the unique challenges of treating the brain and CNS, the healthcare team developing and implementing the treatment plan often includes several specialists:
- Pediatric neurosurgeon: a doctor who specializes in surgery to the brain and nervous system
- Pediatric neuro-oncologist: a doctor who specializes in treating brain tumors with chemotherapy
- Radiation therapist: a doctor who specializes in treating brain tumors with radiation therapy
- Pediatric neurologist: a doctor who treats brain and nervous system diseases in children
- Endocrinologist: a doctor who treats diseases in glands that secrete hormones
The healthcare team will develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient. More often than not, treatment will include multiple forms of therapy.
Almost all children will undergo a surgical biopsy. At that time the surgeon will remove as much of the tumor as can be done safely. Some children may not have surgery because it is too dangerous and/or there has not been a benefit shown for such patients. Examples of these patients are:
- Children with diffuse tumors in the brain stem (the upper part of the back of the neck)
- Children with tumors in the pituitary, pineal or thalamic areas (in the deep center of the brain) may undergo biopsy only
Most children recover very well from surgery, and many gradually regain any neurological function lost because of the tumor. Occasionally, a child will have additional brain damage caused by unexpected bleeding or pressure on the brain during surgery, but these children frequently recover as well.
Depending on the specific brain tumor and age of the child, there are a number of treatments that may be given after surgery.