Chemotherapy for Brain & Spinal Cord Tumors in Children

Chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells and shrink malignant tumors. At NYU Langone’s Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, your child’s pediatric neuro-oncology team may include a neuro-oncologist, a neurosurgeon, and a radiation oncologist. Together they choose chemotherapy drugs based on the type of tumor, your child’s age, and how much of the tumor can be removed during surgery. Sometimes, chemotherapy is used to shrink tumors before surgery.

Some chemotherapy drugs used to treat brain and spinal cord tumors can be taken by mouth or injected into a muscle or through a vein with intravenous (IV) infusion.

Sometimes, our doctors use molecular profiling studies, which determine a cancer’s genetic characteristics, and check the blood for tumor markers, which indicate the presence of cancer. These studies help doctors pinpoint the type and subtype of cancer, allowing them to select targeted therapies designed to kill cancer cells.

Managing Side Effects

Chemotherapy drugs work by attacking cells that divide quickly. They affect not only cancer cells but also healthy cells in the bone marrow, which produces blood cells, as well as those in the hair follicles, the intestines, and the mouth. Side effects of chemotherapy can include fatigue, hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, numbness in the hands and feet, stomach pain, and vomiting. These side effects usually disappear after chemotherapy is completed.

Sometimes, children who have had chemotherapy experience stunted growth and have an increased risk of infection because the number of white blood cells drops during treatment. Your child’s doctor may prescribe an injectable medication to boost the number of white blood cells after chemotherapy treatments.

Side effects depend on the type of chemotherapy drugs given and the duration of treatment. NYU Langone doctors, nurses, and wellness experts can help your child cope through medical, emotional, and psychological support.

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