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Your Child's Medical Team

Originally published on November 10, 2009
Most recently updated on April 10, 2013

After the initial diagnosis of a brain or spinal cord tumor is made, you may need to consult other specialists and doctors, depending on the type of tumor and the treatments recommended. Together with you, these professionals will take a team approach and map out a general plan of care for your child. This plan will be continually evaluated and revised as needed.

Larger medical centers may run clinics and have a formal meeting of these interdisciplinary team members, sometimes called a tumor board. Depending on your child’s specific medical needs, you may need access to specialists or therapies at other facilities. Brain tumors are relatively rare, and children’s medical needs are different than adults’. Treatments and side effects for children may not be the same as those for adults. Pediatric specialists know the most about children’s care.

Not all institutions have exactly the same kinds of doctors or specialists, and their exact roles may differ. Some of these specialists are listed below. If you keep in mind that the prefix neuro- relates to the brain and spinal cord and that oncologists are doctors who study and treat cancer, the naming of these subspecialties will make more sense. The term pediatric in front of any of the terms listed below means that the specialist works primarily with children.

The following is a list of "who's who" on the medical team.

Your child’s team may include anyone else who might provide insight into how a treatment will affect your child’s health and life—for example, your family’s pediatrician, a child life specialist, social worker, clergy, physical therapist. You and your child are the most important part of any meetings, and all comments, concerns, and feelings—both yours and your child’s—should be considered.

When a brain or spinal cord tumor has been diagnosed in a child, it may be important to have surgery or begin aggressive treatment rather quickly. Parents should not delay in seeking a second opinion. Waiting too long could have a negative impact on your child’s health. (In emergency cases, of course, action may need to be immediate and choices may be limited.)

Quite simply, it will be important that you and your child feel that you can trust the doctors and the treatment plan they propose. The treatment itself has to make sense to you, so you may choose to seek another opinion to increase this confidence level.

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