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General Approach to Care for Children with Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors

Important concepts that should be understood by those treating and caring for a child who has a brain tumor or spinal cord tumor include the following:

  1. The cause of most childhood brain tumors remains unknown.[1]
  2. Selection of an appropriate therapy can only occur if the correct diagnosis is made and the stage of the disease is accurately determined.
  3. Children with primary brain or spinal cord tumors represent a major therapy challenge that, for optimal results, requires the coordinated efforts of pediatric specialists in fields such as neurosurgery, neuropathology, radiation oncology, pediatric oncology, neuro-oncology, neurology, rehabilitation, neuroradiology, endocrinology, and psychology, who have special expertise in the care of patients with these diseases.[2,3] For example, radiation therapy of pediatric brain tumors is technically demanding and should be performed in centers that have experience in this area.
  4. For most childhood brain and spinal cord tumors, the optimal treatment regimen has not been determined. Children who have brain and spinal cord tumors should be considered for enrollment in a clinical trial when an appropriate study is available. Such clinical trials are being carried out by institutions and cooperative groups. Survival of childhood cancer has advanced as a result of clinical trials that have attempted to improve on the best accepted therapy available. Clinical trials in pediatrics are designed to compare new therapy with therapy that is currently accepted as standard. This comparison may be done in a randomized study of two treatment arms or by evaluating a single new treatment and comparing the results with those previously obtained from existing therapy. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
  5. While more than 70% of children diagnosed with brain tumors will survive more than 5 years from diagnosis, survival rates are wide-ranging depending on tumor type and stage. Long-term sequelae related to the initial presence of the tumor and subsequent treatment are common.[4,5,6] Debilitating effects on growth and neurologic development have frequently been observed following radiation therapy, especially in younger children.[7,8,9] Secondary tumors have increasingly been diagnosed in long-term survivors.[10] For this reason, the role of chemotherapy in allowing a delay or reduction in the administration of radiation therapy is under study, and preliminary results suggest that chemotherapy can be used to delay, limit, and sometimes obviate, the need for radiation therapy in children with benign and malignant lesions.[11,12,13] Long-term management of these patients is complex and requires a multidisciplinary approach.

    For more information about possible long-term or late effects, refer to the PDQ summary on Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer.

  6. Guidelines for pediatric cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with cancer have been outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.[14]

References:

Recommended Related to Brain Cancer

10 Questions to Ask Doctor About Brain Cancer

Since you were recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, ask your doctor these questions at your next visit. 1. What type of brain tumor do I have, and what is its grade? 2. What are the symptoms of brain cancer? 3. What part of my brain is affected by the tumor and what does this region of the brain do? 4. Will it be possible to surgically remove my tumor? 5. Will I need any other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy after surgery? 6. What are the possible side effects of these therapies? 7...

Read the 10 Questions to Ask Doctor About Brain Cancer article > >

  1. Fisher JL, Schwartzbaum JA, Wrensch M, et al.: Epidemiology of brain tumors. Neurol Clin 25 (4): 867-90, vii, 2007.
  2. Blaney SM, Kun LE, Hunter J, et al.: Tumors of the central nervous system. In: Pizzo P, Poplack D: Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2005, pp 786-864.
  3. Pollack IF: Brain tumors in children. N Engl J Med 331 (22): 1500-7, 1994.
  4. Smith MA, Seibel NL, Altekruse SF, et al.: Outcomes for children and adolescents with cancer: challenges for the twenty-first century. J Clin Oncol 28 (15): 2625-34, 2010.
  5. Reimers TS, Mortensen EL, Nysom K, et al.: Health-related quality of life in long-term survivors of childhood brain tumors. Pediatr Blood Cancer 53 (6): 1086-91, 2009.
  6. Iuvone L, Peruzzi L, Colosimo C, et al.: Pretreatment neuropsychological deficits in children with brain tumors. Neuro Oncol 13 (5): 517-24, 2011.
  7. Ris MD, Packer R, Goldwein J, et al.: Intellectual outcome after reduced-dose radiation therapy plus adjuvant chemotherapy for medulloblastoma: a Children's Cancer Group study. J Clin Oncol 19 (15): 3470-6, 2001.
  8. Johnson DL, McCabe MA, Nicholson HS, et al.: Quality of long-term survival in young children with medulloblastoma. J Neurosurg 80 (6): 1004-10, 1994.
  9. Packer RJ, Sutton LN, Goldwein JW, et al.: Improved survival with the use of adjuvant chemotherapy in the treatment of medulloblastoma. J Neurosurg 74 (3): 433-40, 1991.
  10. Jenkin D: Long-term survival of children with brain tumors. Oncology (Huntingt) 10 (5): 715-9; discussion 720, 722, 728, 1996.
  11. Duffner PK, Horowitz ME, Krischer JP, et al.: Postoperative chemotherapy and delayed radiation in children less than three years of age with malignant brain tumors. N Engl J Med 328 (24): 1725-31, 1993.
  12. Packer RJ, Lange B, Ater J, et al.: Carboplatin and vincristine for recurrent and newly diagnosed low-grade gliomas of childhood. J Clin Oncol 11 (5): 850-6, 1993.
  13. Mason WP, Grovas A, Halpern S, et al.: Intensive chemotherapy and bone marrow rescue for young children with newly diagnosed malignant brain tumors. J Clin Oncol 16 (1): 210-21, 1998.
  14. Guidelines for the pediatric cancer center and role of such centers in diagnosis and treatment. American Academy of Pediatrics Section Statement Section on Hematology/Oncology. Pediatrics 99 (1): 139-41, 1997.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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