Diagnosis and Treatments

During diagnosis, a physician will review a complete medical history of your child, conduct a physical examination and complete a neurological exam to test reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness. Advanced technology may also be used in the diagnostic process, including:

We take specialized and evidence-based approaches to diagnosing children’s brain tumors, and then seek out the appropriate treatment. Our physicians make every attempt to stay at the forefront of treatment advances, making sure they provide our patients with the best care possible. Our multidisciplinary approach to care means that we consult with specialists from multiple hospital divisions — as many as it takes to get a complete and comprehensive treatment plan for your child.

Treatments may include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Medical imaging
  • A ventriculoperitoneal shunt
  • Third ventriculostomy
  • Lumbar puncture/spinal tap
  • Bone marrow aspiration
  • Medications
  • Rehabilitation
  • Continuous follow-up care and supportive care

We also offer patients access to treatments through numerous ongoing clinical trials.

Proton Therapy

Lurie Children's offers patients with pediatric brain tumors access to proton therapy, an advanced form of cancer therapy that precisely targets radiation to tumors, through the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center. Our multidisciplinary Brain Tumor Board plays an integral role in the clinical review of all pediatric brain and central nervous system tumor patients referred to the center.

Learn more about proton therapy and its benefits.​

The INTRABEAM™ System

The INTRABEAM™ system is an innovative combination of integrated technologies for the delivery of intraoperative radiotherapy (IROT). The system delivers single, high doses of precisely controlled radiation directly into the cavities of resected brain tumors. Performed immediately after a confirming biopsy, use of the INTRABEAM system conveniently combines diagnosis and treatment into one patient visit.

Because of devastating long-term consequences, standard external beam radiation has not been an effective treatment option for children diagnosed with brain tumors. Even the use of implanted radioactive isotopes has serious drawbacks.

With the INTRABEAM System, x-rays are generated by forming and focusing an electron beam in an electron accelerator. The beam travels down an evacuated needle, hits a thin gold target, and x-rays are emitted from the needle tip in a spherically symmetric pattern with precise control of the depth of penetration. The tumor or tumor cavity is irradiated directly during the tumor resection.

With this system, the most effective dose of radiation is applied directly to the desired area. Radiation does not pass through healthy tissue to reach the tumor, so there is less risk of damage to important structures outside the target area (such as the optic pathways and brainstem). Because dose rates are significantly higher than those achieved with radioisotopes, treatment times are typically less than 20 minutes.