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Childhood brain and spinal tumours

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Treatment of spinal cord tumours

Tumours that develop in the spinal cord also develop in the brain. Treatment for spinal cord tumours would be similar to that used for the same type of tumour in the brain.


Surgery is the standard treatment for spinal cord tumours. The goal is to remove as much of the tumour as possible. How much tumour can be removed will depend on the type of tumour.

  • Meningiomas and other slow-growing gliomas can usually be totally removed and are often cured by surgery alone.
  • Ependymomas can sometimes be completely removed.
  • Astrocytomas usually cannot be completely removed because these tumours tend to branch out into the surrounding tissues.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is usually given after surgery for high-grade spinal cord tumours, such as astrocytomas. It can also be used to treat tumours that can't be operated on. Radiation may also be given to low-grade tumours that can't be completely removed by surgery. Doctors may also watch the tumour closely for progression, at which time radiation therapy may be given. Whenever possible, doctors will delay giving radiation therapy to children under 3 years of age to avoid long-term side effects of radiation on developing spinal cord cells.


Chemotherapy for spinal cord tumours would be similar to the chemotherapy given for the same type of tumour in the brain. High-grade tumours, such as astrocytomas, recurrent low-grade tumours and tumours in children under the age of 3 years may all be treated with chemotherapy.

Recurrent spinal cord tumours

Surgery will be done to try to remove as much of the tumour as possible. Radiation may be given after surgery, if it wasn't used to treat the original tumour.


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