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Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children

Questions to Ask About Your Child’s Brain or Spinal Cord Tumor

It’s important for you to have honest, open discussions with your child’s cancer care team. They want to answer all of your questions, no matter how minor you might think they are. Here are some questions you might want to ask. Be sure to add your own questions as you think of them.

When you’re told your child has a brain or spinal cord tumor

  • What kind of tumor does my child have? What does this mean?
  • Where is the tumor located? Has it grown into nearby areas?
  • Will my child need other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Will we need to see any other types of doctors?

When deciding on a treatment plan

  • How much experience do you have treating this type of tumor?
  • What are our treatment options? What do you recommend? Why?
  • Should we get a second opinion? Can you recommend a doctor or cancer center?
  • How soon do we need to start treatment?
  • What should we do to be ready for treatment?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it be like? Where will it be done?
  • How might treatment affect our daily activities?
  • What are the possible risks and side effects of treatment?
  • How might treatment affect my child’s ability to learn, grow, and develop?
  • How likely is it that treatment could affect my child’s future ability to have children?
  • Based on what you’ve learned about my child’s tumor, what is the expected prognosis (outlook)?

During treatment

Once treatment begins, you’ll need to know what to expect and what to look for. Not all of these questions may apply, but getting answers to the ones that do may be helpful.

  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • Is there anything we can do to help manage side effects?
  • What symptoms or side effects should we tell you about right away?
  • How can we reach someone from your office on nights, holidays, or weekends?
  • Are there any limits on what my child can do? 

After treatment

  • What type of follow-up will we need after treatment?
  • How often will my child need to have follow-up exams and tests?
  • Are there any limits on what my child can do? 
  • How will we know if the tumor has come back? What should we watch for?
  • Are there nearby support groups or other families who have been through this that we could talk to?

Along with these sample questions, be sure to write down any others you might want to ask. For instance, you might want information about recovery times so you can plan your work and your child’s school and activity schedule. Or you may want to ask about clinical trials for which your child may qualify.

Also keep in mind that doctors aren't the only ones who can give you information. Other members of the treatment team, such as nurses and social workers, can answer some of your questions. You can find out more about speaking with your child’s health care team in The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: June 20, 2018

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