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Childhood brain and spinal tumours

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Treatment of optic nerve and hypothalamic gliomas

Treatment for optic nerve and hypothalamic gliomas depends on the:

  • child's age
  • location of the tumour
  • extent of vision loss or other symptoms

Surgery

Surgery is the primary treatment when the surgeon thinks the tumour can be safely and completely removed. However, these tumours are hard to operate on because they are in a place in the brain that is difficult to reach. In addition, they often invade the nerve leading to the eye and surgery may result in the loss of vision in one or both eyes.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is the primary treatment when surgery cannot be done and treatment is needed. It can shrink the tumour, or at least slow its growth. In children under 3 years of age, radiation therapy can be damaging to developing brain cells. In these cases, chemotherapy may be given first and then followed by radiation therapy, if needed, once the child is over the age of 3.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy has shown some success in treating these tumours. It can shrink the tumour and delay the need for radiation in children younger than 3 years of age. It is not known whether chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy is more effective than chemotherapy alone.

Observation

Observation may be an option if the tumour is stable (not growing) and there are no symptoms. The child will be watched closely for any signs of tumour growth. Treatment is started when the tumour progresses.

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Establishing a national caregivers strategy

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The Canadian Cancer Society is actively lobbying the federal government to establish a national caregivers strategy to ensure there is more financial support for this important group of people.

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