Why choose us for pediatric glioma brain tumor care?
Gliomas are the most common type of pediatric brain tumor to affect children. At Mays Cancer Center, our team delivers precise, family-focused care, convenient to South Texas and surrounding communities.
Several doctors with pediatric cancer expertise work closely together and with families to personalize your child’s treatment. Your team will include a pediatric neurosurgeon, pediatric oncologist and radiation oncologist. We treat gliomas in sophisticated ways, including intricate surgeries to remove cancer and new cancer drugs only available through clinical trials, for eligible patients.
Find out more about our pediatric neuro-oncology program.
What you need to know about glioma brain tumors in children
- Glioma tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Doctors usually recommend treating all gliomas. Slow-growing benign tumors still have the potential to harm a child’s health.
- Doctors don’t understand what causes most brain tumors to develop in children. Children who have certain genetic conditions, such as neurofibromatosis, have an increased chance of developing glioma tumors. Our team has special expertise in treating neurofibromatosis in children.
- Glioma tumors also affect adults. Doctors treat children with glioma brain tumors differently than adults. Our team includes doctors who only treat children with glioma brain tumors, leading to a high degree of expertise and personalized care.
- Our close partnership with national childhood cancer research groups enables us to provide enhanced treatment options through ongoing clinical trials. Eligible patients may be able to try new cancer drugs designed to stop certain glioma tumors from growing and spreading.
How to talk to your doctor about glioma brain tumors in children
We understand the difficulties a brain tumor diagnosis can present for patients and families. We encourage you to reach out to your care team at any point with questions and concerns. Our team is here to support you.
Clinical psychologists and social workers are key members of our care team. They are trained to help you cope in a way that feels right for your family.
We will sit down with you to detail your child’s diagnosis and all available treatment options. Our team explains how cancer or treatments could affect your child now and in the future. We help you prepare for what to expect.
Your care team may bring up the potential of clinical trials. We will discuss how any options your child is eligible for could improve their care.
You might want to ask your doctor about:
- Additional testing, if any, that your child may need to guide diagnosis or treatment
- Cancer type, including whether a glioma tumor is benign or malignant and how likely it is to spread
- Treatment options, including what to expect if your child needs surgery
- Potential treatment side effects, such as changes in how your child thinks or acts
- Support services help families address physical, emotional or social difficulties due to brain tumor treatment
Doctors classify pediatric glioma tumors into two main types based on the genetic characteristics of cancer cells:
- Low-grade gliomas usually grow slowly and pose a low risk of spreading beyond the area where cancer first occurred.
- High-grade gliomas are known to grow quickly and may require more aggressive treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Where and how fast a tumor grows will affect a child’s symptoms. Common glioma symptoms include:
- Headaches, especially after waking in the morning
- Changes to how your child sees (blurry vision) or the look of your child’s eyes (one eye turns inward)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Problems with balance or walking
- Extreme tiredness during the day
- Unusual changes in your child’s mood or behaviors, like trouble focusing or new behavior issues
It’s not always easy for young children to describe the discomfort they feel. Some glioma tumors may not cause any noticeable symptoms in early stages.
Our specialists first perform a thorough physical exam to evaluate a child’s symptoms. If our team suspects a brain tumor, we may recommend one or more tests:
- Imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show the size and location of a brain or spinal tumor.
- Neurological exam evaluates your child’s coordination, vision and hearing for unusual changes that could point to a potential brain tumor.
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) carefully guides a needle into a child’s lower back to remove a small sample of spinal cord fluid. A pathologist analyzes the sample under a microscope to check for cancer cells in spinal cord fluid.
If we detect a brain tumor, your child’s doctor may recommend further testing. If the tumor is accessible, your doctor may recommend a biopsy (tumor tissue sampling). Genetic and molecular tests of tumor tissue can pinpoint a glioma diagnosis and may help identify targeted therapies to treat specific cancer cells. Learn more about diagnosing cancer.
Treatment for glioma tumors in children depends on multiple factors, including the tumor size and location and your child’s overall health.
Pediatric cancer doctors who specialize in treating brain tumors meet regularly to review test results and plan the next steps in your child’s care. Using this approach, we develop a treatment plan for your child based on leading scientific evidence and advances in cancer therapy.
Glioma treatment may include:
- Surgery: A fellowship-trained pediatric neurosurgeon performs complicated surgeries on children of all ages with a high degree of safety. Sophisticated surgical techniques help our team precisely remove glioma tumor tissue while protecting nearby tissue. Surgery may be curative for benign glioma tumors. Learn more about pediatric neurosurgery.
- Chemotherapy and other medicines: Cancer drugs like chemotherapy or targeted therapy can help destroy remaining cancer cells left behind after surgery. A dedicated pediatric inpatient unit at University Hospital is designed to keep children safe and comfortable during treatment.
- Radiation therapy: We may recommend radiation therapies to treat high-grade gliomas or tumors that can’t be surgically removed. Our team’s uncommon pediatric radiation therapy expertise prioritizes children’s safety and comfort.
Brain tumor treatment has the potential to cause long-term effects that may show up years after treatment ends. Our team partners with families to help protect the health of pediatric cancer survivors as they grow up. Read about our childhood cancer survivorship program.
We partner with the National Cancer Institute’s Children’s Oncology Group and other respected childhood cancer research groups to improve the lives of children affected by glioma and other brain tumors.
This association enables eligible patients to try new cancer drugs that are only offered through clinical trials. We will explain how any ongoing clinical trials may improve your child’s care. We take steps to streamline access to clinical trials so that we can quickly match eligible children with new targeted therapies.
Read more about pediatric cancer clinical trials.
View pediatric glioma brain tumor clinical trial opportunities
Clinical trials help researchers evaluate new therapies before making them available to the public. Mays Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center in Central and South Texas, which gives eligible patients early access to clinical trials. We will explain how clinical trial treatments for which your child may be eligible may fit into any phase of care.
Make an appointment
Take the first step by visiting our cancer experts for testing, a second opinion or to learn about treatment options.
Meet our team
Our team includes cancer experts from different medical specialties who share a commitment to delivering precise, personalized care.