Different types of treatment are available for children with visual pathway glioma. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment
Four kinds of standard treatment are used:
- Watchful waiting (closely monitoring a patient's condition without giving any treatment until symptoms appear or change).
- Surgery (taking out the cancer in an operation).
- Radiation therapy (using high-dosex-rays to kill cancer cells).
- Chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells).
Experienced doctors working together can often give the best treatment for children with visual pathway glioma. Your child's treatment will often be coordinated by a pediatriconcologist, a doctor who specializes in cancer in children. The pediatric oncologist may refer you to other doctors, such as a pediatric neurosurgeon (a specialist in childhood brain surgery), a pediatric neurologist, a psychologist, a radiation oncologist, and other doctors who specialize in the type of treatment your child requires.
Surgery is one treatment for visual pathway glioma. Depending on where the cancer is and the type of cancer, your child's doctor may remove as much of the tumor as possible. If the tumor cannot be totally removed, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may also be given. If the cancer is in a place where it cannot be removed, surgery may be limited to a biopsy of the cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy for childhood brain tumors usually comes from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy). Because radiation therapy can affect growth and brain development, clinical trials are testing ways to decrease or delay radiation therapy, especially for younger children. These include internal radiation therapy, in which radiation is put into the brain through thin plastic tubes, and hyperfractionated radiation therapy, in which radiation therapy is given in several small doses per day instead of all at once. Conformal radiation therapy uses a computer to create a 3-D picture of the tumor and the radiation beams are shaped to fit the tumor; this helps to keep the radiation away from healthy tissue as much as possible.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be taken by pill, or it may be put into the body by a needle in a vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the drug enters the bloodstream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is being studied to delay the use of radiation therapy in some patients. Clinical trials are studying different chemotherapy drugs for visual pathway gliomas.