Treatment for embryonal tumors depends on the patient's age (typically babies and young children), tumor type and location, tumor grade and extent, and other factors. Options include:
- Surgery to relieve fluid buildup in the brain. Some embryonal tumors may grow to block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which can cause a buildup of fluid that puts pressure on the brain (hydrocephalus). ). Surgery to create a pathway for the fluid to flow out of the brain (external ventricular drain or ventriculoperitoneal shunt) may be recommended. Sometimes this procedure can be combined with surgery to remove the tumor.
- Surgery to remove the tumor. A pediatric brain surgeon (neurosurgeon) removes as much of the tumor as possible, taking care not to harm nearby tissue. Typically, all children with embryonal tumors should receive additional treatments after surgery to target any remaining cells.
- Radiation therapy. A pediatric radiation oncologist administers radiation therapy to the brain and spinal cord using high-energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. Standard radiation therapy can be used, but proton beam therapy — available at a limited number of major health care centers in the United States — delivers higher targeted doses of radiation to brain tumors, minimizing radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissue.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill tumor cells. Typically, children with embryonal tumors receive these drugs as an injection into the vein (intravenous chemotherapy). Chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery or radiation therapy, or in certain cases, at the same time as radiation therapy. In some cases, high dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell rescue (a stem cell transplant using the patient's own stem cells) may be used.
- Clinical trials. Clinical trials enroll eligible participants to study the effectiveness of new treatments or to study new ways of using existing treatments, such as different combinations or timing of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. These studies provide a chance to try the latest treatment options, though the risk of side effects may not be known. Talk with your doctor for advice.
To ensure correct diagnosis and treatment, children with embryonal tumors need to be seen at a center that has a team of pediatric specialists with expertise and experience in pediatric brain tumors, with access to the latest technology and treatments for children.