Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Treatment for brain tumors

Specific treatment for brain tumors will be determined by your child’s physician based on:

  • Your child’s age, overall health and medical history.
  • Type, location and size of the tumor.
  • Extent of the disease.
  • Your child’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies.
  • Expectations for the course of the disease.
  • Your opinion or preference.

Treatment may include (alone or in combination) the following methods:

  • Surgery – usually the first step in the treatment of brain tumors. The goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible while maintaining neurological function. Surgery for a biopsy also is done to examine the types of cells the tumor is made of for a diagnosis. This is frequently done if the tumor is in an area with sensitive structures around it that may be injured during removal.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Steroids – to treat and prevent swelling especially in the brain.
  • Anti-seizure medication – to treat and prevent seizures associated with intracranial pressure.
  • Ventriculoperitoneal shunt (also called a VP shunt) – a VP shunt may be placed in the head to drain excess fluid from inside the brain. A VP shunt helps control the pressure inside the brain. 
  • Lumbar puncture/spinal tap – to test pressure in the central nervous system, to look for suspicious cells and to give medication if needed.
  • Bone marrow transplantation.
  • Supportive care – for the side effects of the tumor or treatment.
  • Rehabilitation – to regain lost motor skills and muscle strength; speech, physical, and occupational therapists may be involved in the health care team.
  • Antibiotics – to treat and prevent infections.
  • Continuous follow-up care – to manage disease, detect recurrence of the tumor and to manage late effects of treatment.