Brain Tumors and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children

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Duke’s pediatric tumor specialists are dedicated to improving outcomes in children with complex tumors. As part of a worldwide network of pediatric brain tumor centers, we offer the latest advances in testing, access to a broad range of innovative clinical trials, and the most advanced treatments available.

Our team collaborates with families and their established doctors to discuss treatments options. We accept new patients promptly and have a large support team to process referral information and streamline reviews of new patients by our pediatric neuro-oncologists and neurosurgeons.

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Types of Brain Tumors and Spinal Cord Tumors in Children

Our experts treat all types of pediatric brain and spinal tumors, including these most common types of brain tumors:

  • Gliomas
    • Pilocytic astrocytomas
    • Ependymal tumors / Ependymomas
    • High- and low-grade gliomas
  • Choroid plexus tumors
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Embryonal tumors
    • Medulloblastoma
    • Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor
    • Primitive neuroectodermal tumor
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Hematopoietic neoplasms
  • Lymphomas
  • Neuronal and mixed neuronal-glial tumors
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Tumors of the cranial and spinal nerves
  • Tumors of the meninges
  • Tumors of the pineal region / pineal tumors
About Duke Children's

Children with brain or spinal cord tumors receive care at Duke Children's Health Center and its specialized neurosurgery clinic.


Brain and spinal cord tumors in children are often treated successfully with surgery alone; others may require a combination of treatments. Your child’s team will meet regularly to discuss treatments and progress and make adjustments as needed, while focusing on ensuring the best-possible quality of life for your child.


As experts with years of experience caring for children with complex tumors, our pediatric neurosurgeons carefully balance the risks of surgery with the benefits of removing as much of the tumor as possible. We use the most advanced brain mapping technology and sophisticated imaging tools to identify the tumor’s exact location. This careful preparation ensures an accurate diagnosis and tumor staging (determining whether the tumor has spread or is affecting other parts of the body, and whether it is cancerous), helping neuro-oncology experts to use a personalized, precision approach to guide the next steps of treatment.


Radiation therapy uses energy beams to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. We take special care to protect your child’s developing brain and body by using advanced imaging and radiation delivery techniques.


Often used along with radiation and surgery, chemotherapy is used to treat some tumors. We offer the full range of targeted treatment options, with the support of a comprehensive team of pharmacists, oncology nurses, and support staff.


Duke is a leader in developing effective immune-based therapies for treating the most dangerous pediatric brain tumors. We offer a complete array of treatments designed to harness the power of the immune system, including cancer vaccines, immunotoxins, T cell therapy, and anti-cancer viral therapy.

Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy

Tumors and their treatments may impact your child’s day-to-day routine and usual activities. Our physical, occupational, and speech therapists specialize in caring for children with brain and spinal cord tumors. They work closely with your child to help restore physical function and strength and sustain or reclaim their quality of life. 

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Why Choose Duke

A Team Approach
Providing the best care for your child requires a large team of specialists. Our pediatric neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, and neuro-oncologists (doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating cancers that affect the brain and spine) work closely with you to create a personalized treatment plan. Your child’s care team also includes oncology nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers, cancer geneticists, nutritionists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and others.

Prioritizing Comfort
We strive to make your child as comfortable as possible during treatment, and we work hard to minimize side effects and improve their overall quality of life. Our team includes experts in pain management, supportive nutrition, relaxation techniques, and therapies for coping with treatment and hospitalization. Our child life experts explain procedures in ways your child can understand, offer encouragement and emotional support, and use fun activities to take your child’s mind off treatment.

Care Continues After Treatment
Continuity of care after treatment is a critical component of excellent care, as children with brain and spinal tumors may face unique challenges after completing treatment. 

  • Your child’s follow-up care includes regular screenings, ongoing monitoring, and referrals to other specialists as needed. 
  • We help your child transition back to school.
  • We help your child and family manage the immediate and long-term physical and emotional side effects of treatment. 

Dedication to Research and Improved Outcomes
Duke has been at the forefront of important breakthroughs in treatments like immunotherapy and targeted therapies. Our pediatric program is part of the internationally recognized Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, one of the earliest brain tumor research and clinical programs in the U.S. As members of the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium (PNOC) and Collaborative Network for Neuro-oncology Clinical Trials (CONNECT), we are dedicated to developing new and improved treatments for children with brain tumors. 

Brain and Spinal Cord Tumor Clinical Trials at Duke

Our active research efforts mean your child may be eligible to participate in clinical trials that provide early access to new therapies and new ways to treat brain and spinal cord tumors.

Advanced Care Nurse and Neuro-Oncologist Available 24/7
An advanced care nurse is your main point of contact throughout your child’s treatment and recovery. Your child’s advanced care nurse and neuro-oncologists are available to you 24/7.

Flexible Schedule
Our infusion center and clinic operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week. This reduces hospital admissions and allows us to accommodate your family’s schedule as much as possible.

We’re Here to Help 
Dedicated social workers support children and their families during treatment and afterward. They work with our team to address the unique needs of each child, even after treatment is complete. Social workers collaborate with care coordinators to help you navigate the medical system and coordinate the variety of health services your child needs, including appointments for testing, treatment, and other medical visits. They can help you communicate with insurance providers, find resources, and manage the details of your child’s care.

Adolescent and Young Adult Program
We know that teens and young adults don’t want to be treated like kids, but adult care might not be quite right either. Our Adolescent and Young Adult Program brings together experts in pediatric and adult cancer to customize medical and emotional support that is unique to adolescents, helping them cope with cancer treatment and the ways it affects their academic and social lives. In addition, we provide specialized services to support adolescents as they transition to adult care, pursue jobs, and live independently.

Best Children's Hospital in NC

Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties.

This page was medically reviewed on 05/24/2023 by