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Chemotherapy for children with a brain tumour

Chemotherapy is one way your child may be treated for a brain tumour. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy tumour cells by interrupting or stopping their growth. Chemotherapy can be used on its own, with radiotherapy, or it may be used before or after surgery.

Chemotherapy is the use of cytotoxic (anti-cancer) drugs that affect the growth of tumour cells by interfering with the way they divide and create copies of themselves. 

Chemotherapy acts on all dividing cells, including healthy cells, but healthy cells are able to repair themselves better than tumour cells, so fewer of them die after treatment.

Chemotherapy may also be used before surgery or radiotherapy to shrink the tumour or after surgery or radiotherapy, to prevent the tumour from returning. 

What side-effects might my child have?

Because chemotherapy acts on rapidly or frequently dividing cells, any healthy cells in the body that divide frequently are vulnerable to chemotherapy.

These include skin and hair cells and those lining the digestive system. Most of the side-effects you may experience are because of the chemotherapy affect those vulnerable areas.

Side-effects tend to gradually disappear over time once the treatment is complete, but if you’re concerned about any of your side-effects, please remember to speak to your healthcare team.

It’s important to remember that side-effects vary from person to person and from drug to drug.

Common side-effects

  • Increased risk of infection
  • Anaemia and tiredness
  • Nausea 
  • Hair loss 
  • Sore mouth
  • Sensitive skin
  • Problems with sight
  • Changes to taste, appetite and digestion

Less common or long-term side-effects

  • Bruising more easily than usual due to platelet counts being affected
  • Aches and pains in the legs or jaw
  • Kidney problems
  • Hearing loss of high-pitched sounds
  • Temporary or permanent infertility.

Get your free brain tumour information pack

Our FREE Brain Tumour Information Pack has been designed to help you through this difficult time, to guide you through the healthcare system, answer your questions, and reassure you that you're not alone so that you feel confident when discussing treatment and care options with your medical team.

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