Pediatric Brain Tumor

Brain tumors, although rare in children, represent the second most common cause of cancer found in that age group, second only to leukemia.

But if your child is ultimately diagnosed with a brain tumor, there’s reason for hope: Children have a better chance than adults of being cured if the tumor can be removed. With some tumors in children, additional treatment after surgery may not even be needed.

That’s why it’s important to seek care from an experienced, skilled team of specialists with particular expertise in pediatric brain tumors. At UT Southwestern, our pediatric brain tumor team, led by our pediatric neurosurgeons, has dedicated subspecialists, state-of-the-art radiation technology, and access to advanced pediatric treatments that you won’t find at any other hospital in North Texas.

We treat 80 to 100 children with brain tumors each year, and we established the first pediatric neuro-oncology program in Texas.

Our pediatric neurosurgeons are some of the most gifted neurosurgeons in the country. These neurosurgeons, along with their colleagues in neuro-oncology, radiation oncology, and neuro-radiology, have dedicated their lives to the care of children with brain tumors. Together, the team will provide excellent care for your child.

Advanced Care

Brain and spinal cord tumors are the most common solid tumors of childhood. They are the second most common form of childhood cancer in the United States. More than 28,000 children in the U.S. are living with the diagnosis of a brain tumor.

The signs and symptoms of brain tumors vary quite a bit and depend on size and location of the abnormality. Brain tumor treatments – and outcomes – are related to the type of tumor, the location of the tumor within the nervous system, and other related issues. Our multidisciplinary experts tailor treatment to each individual child.

Our team offers experience in the treatment of all types of tumors that affect the brain and spinal cord, including:

  • Medulloblastoma or PNET (primitive neuroectodermal tumor) – the most common tumor of childhood
  • Ependymoma – the third most common brain tumor of childhood
  • Craniopharyngiomas – considered benign tumors but may have a very malignant or difficult clinical course
  • Choroid plexus tumors – relatively rare in children; can be malignant or benign and often are large
  • Pineal region tumors – located deep within the brain; their response to different treatments varies

Learn more about types of pediatric brain tumors.

Treatments

We have significant experience in minimally invasive skull base, endoscopic, endovascular, and radiosurgical techniques using the latest technologies.

For example, our neurosurgeons work closely with our neuroradiologists to employ a variety of advanced neuroimaging modalities. These novel techniques, which include diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and frameless stereotaxy, allow us the ability to adjust our route to a tumor and the ability to remove a tumor with the least amount of damage to critical or sensitive parts of the brain. They may also help to define if a tumor, once thought to be unresectable based on conventional imaging techniques, can be safely removed. Our offering of these advanced techniques provides improved clinical outcomes in our patients.

Our team also offers Gamma Knife and LINNAC-based forms of radiosurgery for pediatric brain tumors – techniques that no other institution in North Texas has readily available for children. These treatments allow children to receive radiation in a safer and more effective manner than traditional or conventional radiation therapy, which is used sparingly in children because of the risks of cognitive problems later in life. In fact, conventional radiation therapy needs to be avoided in young children for this reason.

UT Southwestern has developed more sophisticated ways of delivering radiation treatment in conjunction with new chemotherapies and advanced surgical techniques not offered at other hospitals in the area.

Clinical Trials

Cancer care for children is driven by protocols established through clinical trials. Clinical trials allow access to the latest treatments before they become the standard of care. Our clinicians direct the clinical operations of the Children’s Health NONC (Neuro-oncology) program and are members of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a national childhood brain tumor consortium that provides our patients access to experimental therapies and new treatment developments.

These clinical trials and protocols are often limited to academic institutions with large comprehensive programs, so it is important that you understand you will not find them at every institution in Texas.

For example, one of our current clinical trials allows us to look at the biologic activity of the diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) in children and tailor chemotherapy treatment based on our findings. This is groundbreaking because the pontine glioma, which typically affects children between ages 6 and 10, has remained resistant to all forms of treatment in spite of intense clinical and research efforts. Death within 18 months is the usual course of the disease. This clinical trial is one of the first studies designed to evaluate and treat the tumor based on its own specific biologic activity. It requires surgery, not typically in order to make a diagnosis but to identify the specific activity of that particular tumor.

How We Can Help

Consult with your child’s primary care doctor first about any symptoms that are causing you concern. You may ask to be referred to UT Southwestern by your physician, or you may simply contact us directly for a second opinion if you have started treatment elsewhere. We are here to help you and your child. We will do our very best to answer all your questions and to determine the most appropriate treatment path for your child. You can reach us at 214-456-6660.

One of our neurosurgeons will become your single point of contact for your child’s treatment. He or she will help guide your child’s care and coordinate our multidisciplinary approach to treatment and healing.

Learn what to expect during your child’s care at UT Southwestern.

Pediatric Brain Tumor Specialists

Pediatric Neurosurgery

See all the UT Southwestern physicians who provide care for children.

We are here if you need us, and we can help you through this journey.

Call us at 214-456-6660.