Medulloblastoma is the most common form of cancer in children. It occurs in the cerebellum. Learn more about medulloblastoma.

To Remember

  • A medulloblastoma is a type of primary neuroectodermal tumor (NPWT) that is found at the back of the brain in the cerebellum.
  • Medulloblastomas are the most common cancerous brain tumors in children.
  • The exact cause of medulloblastoma is not known.
  • Symptoms include headache, vomiting, loss of balance, double or blurred vision, and trouble sleeping.

A medulloblastoma is a type of primary neuroectodermal tumor (NPWT) found at the back of the brain in the cerebellum. This part of the brain coordinates movement, balance, and posture, and it plays a role in some of the brain’s functions in ways that are still poorly understood. Different types of medulloblastomas, such as desmoplastic, large cell ones, or anaplastic, can behave differently.

It is the most cancerous brain tumor in children. It is usually diagnosed in children between the ages of 4 and 8, and it is more common in boys. Such types of tumors can be treated by medication assisted treatment.

What are The Causes of a Medulloblastoma?

We don’t know what causes medulloblastoma. It seems more and more that medulloblastomas result from an error in the early development of brain cells.

There is no way to predict that a child will develop medulloblastoma, and no one is to blame if a child develops a tumor.

Researchers investigated whether environmental factors, such as radiation, diet, or chemicals, can cause brain cancer. At this time, there is no conclusive evidence that there is a link.

There is a link between certain medical conditions and medulloblastomas. If a child has Turcot or Gorlin syndrome, their chances of developing medulloblastoma are slightly higher.

How Many Other Children Have Medulloblastomas?

Medulloblastomas account for about 20% of brain tumors in children.

In the USA, approximately 40 to 50 children are diagnosed with medulloblastoma each year.

How do You Know if a Child has a Medulloblastoma?

Doctors and other medical professionals use well-established diagnostic tests to determine if a brain tumor is causing your child’s symptoms. These tests include, among other things, a physical exam and brain scans, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography, which can determine the presence of a tumor. A tissue sample will be taken at the time of surgery to confirm the diagnosis. The small tumor will be removed and sent to a doctor who has the title of the pathologist. Your doctor will examine the tumor under a microscope to determine what exact type of tumor it is.

What are Some of The Medical Symptoms of a Medulloblastoma?

Symptoms include headache, vomiting, shaking, double or blurred vision, and difficulty sleeping. Children with this tumor might also have problems in school, as tasks such as writing become difficult. Their personality or behavior could also change. Sometimes these tumors block the passage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the pathways that drain CSF from the ventricles or into hollow ducts in the brain, leading to a disorder called hydrocephalus.

Diagnosing a Brain Tumor Can Be Long And Difficult.

If the symptoms are simple, the diagnosis can be rapid. If they are mild, the diagnosis could take several months.

What is Staging?

Staging helps determine the most effective type of treatment, which depends on the child’s age and factors related to the tumor. Medulloblastomas are currently staged or divided into two groups, “medium risk” and “high risk”.

These stages are based on results from previous treatments of children in hospitals around the world.

Medulloblastoma is said to be of moderate risk if all of the following statements are true:

  • All or most of the tumor was removed during surgery.
  • Tumor cells have not spread to other parts of the brain or the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). It can be determined with a lumbar puncture or an MRI.
  • A medulloblastoma is said to be at high risk if all of the following statements are true:
  • part of the tumor could not be removed by surgery;
  • the tumor cells have spread to other parts of the brain or into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
  • To stage the tumor, the following diagnostic tools are used: computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and spinal cord, and lumbar puncture.

Treatment of Brain Medulloblastomas

To Remember

The treatment team may include a neurosurgeon, neuro-oncologist, nurse practitioner, and social worker.

There are three main types of treatment for brain tumors in children: surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Some children will need to be treated for hydrocephalus, a disorder caused by increased pressure in the brain caused by the tumor’s presence that blocks the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inside the brain.

Before you agree to the proposed treatment, it is important that you understand what to expect and that you are comfortable with your decision.

In this section, we describe in detail the treatment options for various types of brain tumors.

When the doctors determine what is causing your child’s symptoms (usually after surgery), you will meet with the treatment team. Remember that it helps bring a pencil and paper and take notes at every meeting with this team. You could also ask a relative or friend to come and do it for you.

The treatment team may include a neurosurgeon, neuro-oncologist, nurse practitioner or nurse, and social worker. During the meeting, the team will explain which doctor is responsible for your child’s treatment and the roles of each of them.

The doctor will explain the type of tumor your child has, based on what the team learned during diagnostic tests. You will be told what effect this tumor is expected to have on your child in the months and years to come, based on what is known about the tumor. This is the prognosis.

The doctor might talk about having your child follow a protocol, that is, a treatment plan for a specific tumor. You will need to agree to the plan for treatment to begin. Adolescent patients could also be asked for their consent.

There are three main types of treatment for brain tumors in children. These are surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. Your child may receive one of these treatments or a combination of at least two treatments. For some tumors, the best approach is simply an observation.

To reduce some of the tumor’s symptoms, your child will probably take steroids at first, usually for a short time.

Some children have hydrocephalus, a disorder where there is an increase in pressure in the brain because the tumor blocks the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inside the brain. In such cases, a shunt may be surgically installed to help relieve pressure in the brain.

Many doctors are trying to improve the success rate of cancer treatments. They can do this by studying various types of treatment in clinical trials. Your child’s doctor may ask you if you want your child to participate in a clinical trial. You will need to sign an informed consent form for your child to participate in a trial.

When you meet with the treatment team, you may also be told what resources are available to support you, your child, and your other children during treatment and recovery. You will be encouraged to think of questions to ask about the diagnosis and treatment plan.

Before accepting the treatment offered, it is important that you understand what is expected and that you are comfortable with your decision.

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