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Brain Cancer Health Center

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Treatment Option Overview

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    Surgery

    Surgery is used to diagnose and treat childhood brain stem glioma as discussed in the General Information section of this summary.

    Radiation therapy

    Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

    Radiation therapy to the brain can affect growth and development in young children. Certain ways of giving radiation therapy can help keep radiation from damaging healthy tissue:

    • Conformal radiation therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses a computer to make a 3-dimensional (3-D) picture of the tumor and shapes the radiation beams to fit the tumor. This allows a high dose of radiation to reach the tumor and causes less damage to normal tissue around the tumor.
    • Hyperfractionated radiation therapy is radiation treatment in which the total dose of radiation is divided into small doses and the treatments are given more than once a day.

    The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. Radiation therapy may be used alone or in addition to chemotherapy.

    Several months after radiation therapy to the brain, imaging tests may show changes to the brain tissue. These changes may be caused by the radiation therapy or may mean the tumor is growing. It is important to be sure the tumor is growing before planning more treatment.

    Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly in the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

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