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Medulloblastoma accounts for 15% to 20% of all brain tumors in children, making it one of the most common cancerous pediatric brain tumors. Medulloblastoma usually occurs in children between ages 3 and 8, but can be seen in children or adults of any age.
Medulloblastoma is a cancer in the cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls coordination, balance and complex motor functions. The condition most often occurs in the central part of the cerebellum.
Medulloblastoma is a very fast-growing cancer. It often spreads to other areas of the central nervous system, including the spinal cord, through cerebrospinal fluid.
In many cases, it is unknown why medulloblastoma develops. For some children, medulloblastoma is associated with inheritable conditions, such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Gorlin syndrome and Turcot syndrome.
The board-certified pediatric neuroscience and cancer specialists with Norton Children’s Brain & Spinal Tumor Program collaborate to evaluate each case of medulloblastoma. They bring their individual experience, training and skills to regular case reviews to build a customized treatment plan for each child.
The Norton Children’s Cancer Institute Neuro-oncology Clinic care team suggested an advanced regimen of chemotherapy, limited radiation and a stem cell transplant — 10 months of treatment in all.
The overall five-year survival rate for kids with medulloblastoma is about 65%, according to a 2018 study in The Lancet Oncology. Many go on to live longer and many are cured, meaning no traces of cancer remain.
Many treatment advances have been discovered in recent years, and the prognosis for children with medulloblastoma continues to improve.
The neuroscience and oncology specialists with the Norton Children’s Brain & Spinal Tumor Program are working to lengthen life expectancy for kids with brain tumors. They stay at the forefront of research into new treatments, conduct clinical trials of new drugs and therapies, and publish their findings in prestigious medical journals so others can benefit from their discoveries.
The Brain & Spinal Tumor Program is a collaboration of Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute and Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, both affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.
Brain tumors such as medulloblastoma can cause a variety of symptoms in children based on age and location of the tumor. Symptoms can resemble other more common and less dangerous conditions. Each child will experience symptoms differently.
Medulloblastoma in the cerebellum can cause issues with walking, balance and/or fine motor skills.
If the cancer is causing hydrocephalus, impeding the flow of cerebrospinal fluid or putting pressure on healthy structures of the brain, symptoms may include:
If medulloblastoma has reached the spinal cord, symptoms may include:
An initial diagnosis often can be made based on MRI findings. Medulloblastoma will appear on an MRI as a solid mass in the cerebellum and will brighten with contrast.
After surgery to remove the tumor, the tissue is evaluated by a neuropathologist to confirm a diagnosis of medulloblastoma.
The specialists with Norton Children’s Brain & Spinal Tumor Program work with patients and their families to develop a treatment plan unique to each child’s condition. The treatment plan will be based on:
Surgery typically is the first treatment for medulloblastoma as long as the tumor can be accessed without too much risk. The surgeon will remove as much of the tumor as possible without affecting healthy brain tissue. After surgery, the tumor is evaluated for a more precise diagnosis.
Follow-up treatments are typical and can include radiation therapy to the brain and spine to attack the cancer’s tendency to spread. Chemotherapy also may be part of the treatment plan, depending on the type of medulloblastoma and extent of any spread.
Norton Children’s Cancer Institute is a long-standing member of the Children’s Oncology Group. The Children’s Oncology Group is the largest group of hospitals around the world that treat children with cancer. Our involvement means patients have access to innovative new treatments through clinical trials.