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Brain Tumor Surgery


St. Jude patients who need brain tumor surgery benefit from the hospital’s collaboration with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Together, the two hospitals offer a team of experts that are specially trained in caring for children before, during and after brain tumor surgery. Your child’s surgical team starts with world-class pediatric neuro-oncologists, pediatric neurosurgeons and pediatric radiation oncologists, but it extends far beyond the surgeons who perform the brain tumor surgery. Every child has a full diagnosis and treatment team to help you and your family through each step of treatment. This team includes oncologists, radiation therapists, pathologists and radiologists.

What To Expect

There are many types of brain tumors that may occur in children. Many brain tumors will require surgery to obtain a sample of the tumor to determine the type of brain tumor. This is also known as a biopsy. Your child’s primary care team will work together to determine if your child needs this type of surgery.

Brain tumor surgery occurs in a special surgical facility at Le Bonheur, located about a mile from St. Jude. The unit features sophisticated equipment to take images of the exact location of your child’s tumor. A pediatric neurosurgeon uses these images to guide the surgery, which can take place right away without moving your child to another facility.

First, the neurosurgeon takes a sample of the tumor. Sometimes, the whole tumor can be removed at the same time. In other cases, only part of the tumor can be removed.

Next, a pathologist looks at the tumor or tumor sample to see if it has any cancer cells. Depending on the type of cancer and how far it has spread, your child may need chemotherapy, radiation or more surgery. The pediatric neurosurgeon will work with you and with other members of the medical team to decide the best plan of treatment for your child.

Following surgery, your child may go to Le Bonheur’s Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit (Neuro ICU), for care. The Neuro ICU is specifically designed for the care of children following brain tumor surgery and is staffed with nurses trained in brain surgery recovery. Parents are able to stay with their children during this recovery period.

If your child needs any type of treatment after surgery, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, it will occur at St. Jude. All brain tumor surgeries will take place at Le Bonheur.

Brain tumors can cause long-term learning, behavior or physical problems in some children. Your child’s medical team may prescribe a follow-up plan that includes working with St. Jude rehabilitation experts.

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