Brain Tumors in Children

You want to know you have the highest-quality doctors and support team for your child. The world-renowned doctors at Roswell Park Oishei Children’s and UBMD Pediatrics and Neurosurgery specialize in brain tumors and provide expert, compassionate care for your child.

What is a brain tumor?

A tumor may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

There are many types of and classifications (groupings) of tumors. Classifications are based on many things including the tumor cell structure, composition, rate of growth and location, and other features.

Brain tumor symptoms in children

Brain tumor symptoms in children may not be easy to spot. Some children have symptoms that slowly get worse and others may become sick very quickly.

Headaches are often the most common symptom. Headaches should be checked by a doctor when they:

  • Become worse after your child wakes up in the morning, exercises or changes body positions
  • Are accompanied by vomiting or confusion

Other symptoms include:

  • Trouble speaking
  • Gradual loss of movement or feeling in an arm or leg
  • Memory loss
  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Problems with balance and weakness or numbness

Our approach to brain tumors in children

When a child shows one or more symptoms associated with brain tumors, a physical and a neurological (nervous system) exams are often the first tests performed.

Your physician may also order tests to find a brain tumor and where it is located including:

  • CT
  • MRI
  • PET scan
  • Examination of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

Treatment depends on the size and type of tumor and your child’s general health. Goals of treatment may be to remove the tumor or to relieve symptoms and improve your child’s comfort.

Treatment options for brain tumors in children


Surgery is typically needed for most primary brain tumors. Some tumors may be completely removed.

In cases where the tumor cannot be removed, your child’s doctor may suggest surgery that can help reduce pressure and relieve symptoms


Chemotherapy uses medicine to treat the cancer and drugs to attack the cancer in various ways. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery, after surgery or both.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation at the cancer cells to kill them or to keep them from growing.

Medicines such as anticonvulsants and corticosteroids may also be used to reduce or prevent seizures. Pain medicines may be given as well.

Gamma knife radiosurgery

Gamma Knife radiosurgery is an innovative treatment that can destroy tumors.

Despite the name, there are no cutting or incisions involved, as it is a targeted minimally invasive radiation treatment. Roswell Park is the only center in the region to offer this critical treatment.

Experimental Therapeutics

The Experimental Therapeutics Program gives our pediatric patients access to novel therapies they can try only through early-phase clinical trials.

This program makes many clinical trials for adult Roswell patients now available to our pediatric, adolescent and young adult patients. This means your child can have experimental cancer treatment right here in our facility.

Roswell Park Oishei Children’s offers family-centered care

When your child is sick, it affects your whole family. We understand that and work hard to support and care for each family member.

The modern treatment facility is designed with patients and their families in mind. For one thing, your child is free to roam the hallways and doesn’t have to be confined to bed.

Our Child Life Specialists are experts at keeping your child entertained during treatment. Your family members can also take advantage of our integrative medicine services, which include acupuncture, massage therapy and aromatherapy.

A patient navigator helps provide information on resources that may be available to your child and family, and our psychologists and social workers assist with your child’s education and school reentry.

At Roswell Park Oishei Children’s, we strive to help your whole family so your child can recover in a place that’s designed with comfort in mind.

Care for children with brain tumors is delivered at a comprehensive multidisciplinary clinic at Oishei Children’s Outpatient Center. Children with brain tumors requiring radiation therapy or outpatient chemotherapy receive treatment at the Katherine, Anne and Donna Gioia Pediatric Hematology Oncology Outpatient Center.

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