Pediatric brain tumors are the second most common cancer in children, with approximately 2,500 to 3,500 brain tumors diagnosed in the United States each year.
Through the collaborative efforts of The University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and affiliated physicians from the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, advances are being made in the treatment and survival of patients with brain and spinal cord tumors.
Brain tumors in children are often very different from those in adults, in cell type, presentation and responsiveness to treatment. Because a child’s brain is still developing, it is important for a child or adolescent to receive diagnosis and treatment from a physician team specializing in pediatric brain tumors.
Tumors present in a variety of ways depending on their location in the brain. The most common signs and symptoms are headache and vomiting due to elevated intracranial pressure. In infants and young children, irritability or a fontanelle that is fuller than normal may signal elevated intracranial pressure. Other signs and symptoms may include:
When a tumor is suspected, the first step is neuroimaging. Usually MRI scanning with and without a contrast agent is the preferred study. The contrast agent is a drug given intravenously which can provide additional detail of the tumor and surrounding nervous system structures. Once the MRI is completed, treatment decisions are made. Usually a surgical biopsy or resection is performed. Pathologic evaluation of the tumor directs subsequent treatment choices, which include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
The Pediatric Brain Tumor Program brings together a team of experts affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital to serve physicians, patients and families with new and advanced ways to diagnose and treat childhood brain tumors.
The pediatric brain tumor team includes board-certified specialists in:
Additional support is provided by psychologists, nutritionists, social workers and child life specialists as well as developmental and education specialists.
With a family-centered approach, the team treats a variety of brain and spinal cord tumors, including:
Physicians with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Program partner with patients and families to deliver the best treatment tailored to children with brain and spinal tumors. In addition, the patient’s pediatrician will stay updated throughout the child’s care.
The program includes:
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