Childhood Cancer

Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors

Chapter 13: Radiation Therapy

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength.

— St. Francis de Sales

RADIATION THERAPY IS ONE of the oldest and most effective therapies for many brain and spinal cord tumors. It can be used to shrink a tumor, delay tumor growth, prevent a tumor from returning, or treat symptoms associated with tumor growth, such as pain.

Radiation therapy can cause acute short-term side effects and permanent damage that may not be evident until months or years after treatment. Children who are younger than age 5 when they receive radiation are at much higher risk for developing serious permanent side effects. For this reason, radiation treatment is sometimes postponed for very young children, and the benefits and risks of treatment with radiation must be carefully weighed by both doctors and parents.

This chapter explains what radiation is, when and how it is used, and its potential side effects. It clearly explains what you and your child can expect from radiation treatment.