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Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children

Drugs to Help with Symptoms in Children with Brain or Spinal Cord Tumors

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Children with brain or spinal cord tumors can often be given drugs to help with symptoms from the tumor or side effects of treatment. These drugs do not treat the tumor directly, but they can be important an important part of your child's treatment.


Cortisone-like drugs such as dexamethasone (Decadron) are often given to reduce the swelling that can occur around brain tumors. They are often given before and for a few days after surgery, and might be used during radiation therapy as well. This may help relieve side effects such as headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

Anti-seizure drugs (anticonvulsants)

Drugs may be given to lower the chance of seizures in children with brain tumors. Many different anti-seizure drugs can be used.


The pituitary gland, which lies at the base of the brain, helps control the levels of many different hormones in the body. If the pituitary has been damaged by the spread of the tumor or by treatments (surgery or radiation therapy), your child may need to take pituitary hormones or other hormones to replace those that are no longer being made by the body.

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.

Chang SM, Mehta MP, Vogelbaum MA, Taylor MD, Ahluwalia MS. Chapter 97: Neoplasms of the central nervous system. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

Dorsey JF, Hollander AB, Alonso-Basanta M, et al. Chapter 66: Cancer of the central nervous system. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE. Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier; 2014.

Williams D, Parsons IF, Pollack DA. Chapter 26A: Gliomas, Ependymomas, and Other Nonembryonal Tumors of the Central Nervous System. In: Pizzo PA, Poplack DG, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016.

Last Revised: June 20, 2018

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