At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, experts specialize in diagnosing and treating a wide range of pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors. We understand that each child is unique and we take a personalized approach to developing an appropriate, comprehensive care plan.

Our physicians will start by taking your child's medical history and completing a thorough physical examination. We may also use some of the following tools to confirm or rule out the presence of a brain or spinal cord tumor:

  • Computed tomography (CT), a non-invasive imaging procedure that uses X-rays to study the brain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a tool that uses magnetic fields and computers to create images of the brain and spine
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), which analyzes the biochemical make-up of a tumor
  • Position emission tomography (PET), which monitors cell activity
  • Surgical biopsy, to examine the tumor under a microscope and to perform additional tests on the tumor tissue

Brain Tumor Treatments

The goal of treatment is to remove or destroy as much of the tumor as possible while protecting the healthy tissue around it. Depending on the location and severity of the tumor, as well as your child's age and overall health, we may recommend surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Our multidisciplinary team will work with you to find the right solution.

Chemotherapy can play a major role in your child's treatment plan. We have expertise in delivering conventional doses of chemotherapy, high dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell rescue, and more advanced or targeted approaches. Our experts will determine the optimal therapy for the course of your child's disease. Learn more about chemotherapy.

We use advanced radiation technologies that optimally target tumors while protecting healthy brain tissue. Three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT), intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) are routinely used to accomplish these goals. In addition, stereotactic radiosurgery is considered in the treatment of select brain tumors in children. These types of radiotherapy utilize the most advanced computer-aided planning and imaging techniques, in order to maximize cure rates and minimize side effects. Learn more about pediatric radiation oncology.

In cases where the tumor is located in a place where it is safe to remove, surgery often is a first-line treatment. We understand that surgery can be frightening and we offer support to help you through the process. Our skilled pediatric neurosurgeons offer a number of minimally invasive surgeries that reduce pain and help children recover faster than traditional procedures. In selected cases, state-of-the-art computer navigation systems can help doctors "map" the brain and spine to better pinpoint the location of the tumor. Learn more about surgery for pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors.

Rehabilitation may also play a key role in your child’s treatment. Our team of physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists will work with your child as needed to help maintain or regain skills and function that may be reduced during illness. Learn more about pediatric therapy services.