Less than one week before Christmas, “Emma”* presented to The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital barely able to walk. She was diagnosed with a large tumor in the balance part of the brain called the cerebellum.  Pediatric neurosurgeons at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital were able to remove her tumor completely and she was back home (and walking again!) before New Year’s Eve. (*Name changed to protect patient confidentiality).

Brain tumors are the second most common childhood cancer. About 4,600 cases of tumor in the central nervous system (CNS), which is the brain and spinal cord, are diagnosed in children every year in the United States. Through advances in medicine, many children are surviving their disease and growing up into adulthood and success stories like Emma’s are becoming more and more common.

The treatment of childhood brain tumors is very complex and requires a team of specialists who work together for each child. Surgery is an important part of treating brain tumors. Medicines (chemotherapy) and radiation therapy can also be useful treatments.

At the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, we have a team-approach to treating childhood brain tumors. The Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Clinic was recently formed to provide each child with the individualized care that they need. In addition to Pediatric Neurosurgery and Pediatric Oncology seeing the patients in this clinic, other specialties (Pediatric Neurology, Pediatric Endocrinology, Pediatric Neuroradiology, Radiation Oncology, Physical Therapy, Social Work) are connected to the patients as needed. As part of the Pediatric Neuro-oncology clinic, each month the Pediatric Neuro-oncology “Team” sits together to review these patients to make sure every child is getting the best care available.

Children with brain tumors at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital have access to the latest tumor treatments by participating in clinical trials through the Children’s Oncology Group, an international cooperative group supported by the National Cancer Institute. The Children’s Oncology Group is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research.

Symptoms include:

  • Headaches.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Irritability.
  • Lethargy and drowsiness.
  • Personality and mental activity changes.
  • Depression.
  • Coma and death, if left untreated.
  • Macroencephaly (big heads) in infants whose skull bones are not completely fused.

To schedule an appointment with the doctors at the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Clinic, please call 802-847-8777.

Susan Durham, MD, is a pediatric neurosurgeon at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and associate professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. Heather Bradeen, MD, is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. 

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