Medulloblastoma in Children

Submit request or call to make an appointment.

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.

Norton Children’s Helps Jameson Milby Recover From Medulloblastoma

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.

Medulloblastoma Symptoms

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:

  • Blurred and double vision
  • Confusion
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Seizures and passing out
  • Vomiting

If medulloblastoma has reached the spinal cord, symptoms may include:

  • Arm and/or leg weakness and/or numbness
  • Bowel or bladder habit changes
  • Spinal pain

Medulloblastoma Treatment

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.

‘Super Drew’ recovered from brain surgery and is raising money to help the next kids

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:

  • The child’s age, current health and medical history
  • Location, size and type of tumor
  • Current status of the disease
  • Tolerance for medications, therapies and procedures
  • The expected course of the condition
  • Multiple opinions from specialists in neuroscience, cancer, pathology and more

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.

What to Expect From Norton Children’s Brain & Spinal Tumor Program 

  • If your child has just been diagnosed, we offer same-day and next business day appointments for urgent referrals.
  • Each child’s case is reviewed by a board of specialists who discuss possible treatment plans, so the patient benefits from a broad array of expertise, experience, training and research.
  • Neurologists, oncologists and other specialists see patients at the same location, making travel easier for families because appointments are scheduled for the same day.
  • Board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at the forefront of new treatment advances work to attack tumors while protecting healthy brain and spinal tissue.
  • Norton Children’s Hospital is part of an elite group of pediatric hospitals that perform MRI-guided laser ablation surgery using the minimally invasive Visualase system to destroy diseased tissue, including deep brain tumors.
  • Support groups, social workers, psychiatrists, school liaison specialists and child life specialists identify and address the needs of patients and their families during and after medical treatment.
  • We help prepare for the transition back to school, determine appropriate educational placement and identify any additional services through a neuropsychologist evaluation.
  • Integrated rehabilitation by physical and occupational therapists begins as early as possible during treatment to give patients the greatest benefit.
  • Communicate with your provider, manage appointments, refill prescriptions and more anytime from a computer or mobile device with a free Norton MyChart account.

Related Stories

Osteosarcoma isn’t slowing down this Kentucky teen
Effects of pediatric brain tumors on vision
Tests for finding brain tumors in children
After 4-year battle with neuroblastoma, Louisville girl is cancer-free