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Brain & Spinal Tumours

Brain tumours can be classified as low grade (benign) or high grade (malignant -another word for cancer).
Within this range,  there are many different types of tumours and in different locations.  It is important to know the type and location of a tumour as that will indicate what symptoms to expect and what treatment is the best.

Once the diagnosis of a brain tumour has been confirmed, a meeting with a primary oncologist and members of the neuro-oncology team will be organized to discuss treatment options.
The team will include an oncologist, a neurosurgeon, a neuro-oncology nurse clinician and a social worker. The discussion will review the diagnosis, tumour type, treatment protocol, and prognosis (what we think will happen as treatment continues). You will be able to ask questions and talk about what you want for your child.  We will ask you to sign consent before treatment begins. You may be asked to enroll your child in a clinical trial. The aim of a clinical trial is to make cancer treatments more successful.  It will help us see if one treatment is better than another. Your doctor will explain the aims and objectives of the trial as well as how it differs from standard treatment. 

There are three main types of treatments for brain tumours: 

Surgery:  Resection is another word used for surgery to remove a tumour.  The goal is to remove as much tumour as possible without causing harm.  The neuro-surgeon will discuss the risks of surgery with you before asking you to sign consent.

  • Partial resection:  when only part of the tumour can be removed
  • Complete or gross total resection:  when the entire tumour is removed; we cannot see any tumour on the post-operative MRI

Chemotherapy:  May also be called anticancer drugs or chemotherapeutic agents.  These are drugs used to destroy tumour cells.  The goal of chemotherapy will depend on your child's diagnosis.  Chemotherapy may be given to:

  • cure 
  • control a tumour, try to stop the tumour from growing back 
  • improve quality of life; if cure is not possible, chemotherapy may be used to control symptoms

Radiation:  The use of high energy x rays or gamma rays to destroy or damage tumour cells.  The goal of radiation will also depend on your child's diagnosis.  Radiation may be given to:

  • cure
  • control
  • improve quality of life and control symptoms when a cure is not possible

Health information online can be helpful, but may bring up more questions. Be sure to talk with health care professionals about what you find.

There is a lot of information to take in. Try to only look at the information you need right now. You can always come back to get more information at a later date.

Recovery is an important part of the treatment for a brain, spinal cord or solid tumour. It can occur at different times in a child’s treatment.  The type and amount of rehabilitation will depend on what your child needs. It will help your child become stronger and be the best he/she can be.  

Your child will start rehabilitation as soon as possible and will continue as long as he/she needs it. The rehabilitation professionals on your team will review your child’s needs and help you tap into the most useful resources for your child.

If your child needs more intensive rehabilitation after surgery, he/she may spend some time at Sunnyhill Health Centre for Children for young children or GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre for youth.

Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy are available through different sources both in hospital and in your community. Some of them are:

If you have questions about rehabilitation services, please talk to your oncology team.


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