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Brain Tumor Center

Patient and Family Education

Childhood Cerebral Astrocytoma

Treatment Options

There are three primary treatment options for patients with childhood cerebral astrocytoma:

  1. surgery
  2. radiation therapy
  3. chemotherapy

More than one method of treatment may be used, depending on the needs of the patient.


is the most common treatment for a child with cerebral astrocytoma. Depending on the location of the tumor, a child's doctor may remove as much of it as possible by creating an opening in the skull in an operation called a craniotomy. If the tumor cannot be removed completely, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may also be given. If the cancer is in a place where it cannot be removed, surgery may be performed for a biopsy of the cancer.

Radiation Therapy:

If the tumor cannot be completely removed with surgery, radiation therapy may be given. Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation from x-rays and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy for childhood cerebral astrocytoma usually comes from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy). The use of radiation put into the brain through thin plastic tubes (internal radiation therapy) is under study. For some types of brain tumors, clinical trials are evaluating radiation therapy given in several small doses each day (hyperfractionated radiation therapy). Radiation therapy can affect growth and brain development, so clinical trials are testing ways to decrease or delay radiation therapy, especially for younger children.


Because radiation therapy can affect a child's growth and development, chemotherapy may be given to delay or eliminate the need for radiation. Most chemotherapy drugs are injected into a vein (IV) or a muscle; some are given by mouth. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning that the drugs flow through the bloodstream to nearly every part of the body to kill cancerous cells. It is generally given in cycles; a treatment period is followed by a recovery period, then another treatment period, and so on.

This page was last updated on: September 22, 2009.