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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Diagnosis and Treatment

At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital, experts specialize in diagnosing and treating a wide range of pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors. We understand that each child is unique and we take a personalized approach to developing an appropriate, comprehensive care plan. 

Diagnostic Tools

Our physicians will start by taking your child's medical history and completing a thorough physical examination. We may also use some of the following tools to confirm or rule out the presence of a brain or spinal cord tumor:

  • Computed tomography (CT), a non-invasive imaging procedure that uses X-rays to study the brain
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a tool that uses magnetic fields and computers to create images of the brain and spine
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), which analyzes the biochemical make-up of a tumor
  • Position emission tomography (PET), which monitors cell activity
  • Surgical biopsy, to examine the tumor under a microscope and to perform additional tests on the tumor tissue

Brain Tumor Treatment

The goal of treatment is to remove or destroy as much of the tumor as possible while protecting the healthy tissue around it. Depending on the location and severity of the tumor, as well as the child's age and overall health, we may recommend surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Our multidisciplinary team will work with you to find the right solution.


In cases where the tumor is located in a place where it is safe to remove, surgery often is a first-line treatment. We understand that surgery can be frightening and we offer support to help you through the process. Our skilled pediatric neurosurgeons offer a number of minimally invasive surgeries that reduce pain and help children recover faster than traditional procedures. In selected cases, state-of-the-art computer navigation systems can help doctors "map" the brain and spine, as well as the location of the tumor. Learn more about surgery for pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors.


Chemotherapy can play a major role in a child's treatment plan. We have expertise in delivering conventional doses of chemotherapy, high dose chemotherapy with autologous stem cell rescue, and more advanced or targeted approaches. Our experts will determine the optimal therapy for the course of your child's disease. Learn more about chemotherapy.

Radiation Therapy 

We use advanced radiation technologies that optimally target tumors while protecting healthy brain tissue. Three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT), intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) are routinely used to accomplish these goals. In addition, stereotactic radiosurgery is considered in the treatment of select brain tumors in children. These types of radiotherapy utilize the most advanced computer-aided planning and imaging techniques, in order to maximize cure rates and minimize side effects. Learn more about pediatric radiation oncology.

Physical and Occupational Therapy 

Rehabilitation may also play a key role in your child’s treatment. Our team of physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists will work with your child as needed to help maintain or regain skills and function that may be reduced during illness.

Support and Long-Term Care

Children coping with challenging diagnoses often have ongoing medical, emotional, social and developmental needs. Our doctors, nurses, social workers and child life specialists recognize these issues and can provide your family with resources and tools to help you cope and stay informed. Learn more about some of the resources we offer.

Children who have survived cancer may face other health issues as they grow older. To meet these challenges, Comer Children’s created the Childhood Cancer Survivors Center. This unique Center also helps young patients address some of the social and emotional concerns they may have as cancer survivors.

In addition, Comer Children's is home the Pediatric Familial Cancer Clinic. The goal of this program is to help children and their families who may have an increased risk of cancer. Our experts perform risk assessments, genetic counseling and provide coordinated care to reduce any risk.