Treatment for Children
Removing the brain tumor is usually the first step in brain tumor treatment if possible. Studies show if all visible brain tumors can be removed there is a better chance for long-term survival. Fortunately, advancing technologies allow for further safe removal of brain tumor tissue. In children, staged surgeries are frequently used. In staged surgeries, instead of trying to remove the brain tumor all at once, neurosurgeons will take a small part out and then attempt to shrink the brain tumor with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. After several months of brain cancer treatment, the surgeon may go back in to completely remove the rest of the brain tumor.
Chemotherapy is often administered through a special, long-lasting IV catheter called a central line and may require frequent hospital stays. Although chemotherapy has many short-term side effects, it has fewer long-term side effects than radiation therapy. Unlike brain tumors in adults, many pediatric brain tumors are highly sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy and respond well to high doses of it. However, giving a child high-dose or intensive chemotherapy can cause serious damage to bone marrow and special precautions are taken to prevent damage.
Conventional radiation therapy is used frequently to treat ependymoma. This process uses external beams of x-rays, gamma rays or protons aimed at the tumor to kill brain cancer cells and shrink brain tumors. The therapy is usually given over a period of several weeks. Newer techniques of delivering radiation that targets the brain tumor while protecting nearby healthy tissues have been implemented over the past two decades.
Radiation therapy in children can have serious long-term consequences on brain and other organ development, so it is extremely important to have treatment performed at a center that specializes in this disease. Newer computer-assisted technologies have allowed doctors to construct 3-D radiation fields that accurately target brain tumor tissue, while avoiding critical brain structures. It is important to discuss the potential side effects, possible neurological symptoms and complications with your child’s physician.
Click here to read more about several specific radiation options and more.
Alternative and Complementary Therapies
The CERN Foundation is not currently investigating the effects of alternative and complementary therapies on ependymoma. However, some patients research these options with the guidance of their physicians. Some options include massage, diet and chiropractic treatment.
Your Child’s Medical Team
The care of a child with a brain tumor is complicated and requires close coordination between many members of a medical team at your chosen medical facility.
Members of this neuro-oncology team typically include:
- A pediatric neuro-oncologist – someone who treats brain cancer or cancer of the spine
- A pediatric neurologist – someone who deals with disorders of the nervous system
- A pediatric neurosurgeon – a surgeon who operates on the brain or spine
- A radiation therapist – a specialist who administers radiation therapy
- Psychologists and social workers
We know you have lots of questions and we’re here to help provide answers. If you, or your medical team, have a specific question about ependymoma treatment, contact us.
We also encourage you to visit our clinical trials page to find out if a clinical trial fits into your treatment plan. You learn all about the basics of participating in a clinical trial for ependymoma.