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Medulloblastoma Diagnosis

The first step in successful treatment for medulloblastoma is an accurate diagnosis. At MD Anderson’s Children’s Cancer Hospital, our physicians are highly specialized in pediatric brain tumors and bring a remarkable level of skill and expertise to each case. They are supported by a specially trained staff focused on working with children.

Children’s Cancer Hospital offers the most advanced diagnostic technology, which our team of experts use to pinpoint the tumor so treatment can be delivered with the utmost accuracy.

Medulloblastoma Diagnostic Tests

If your child has symptoms that may signal medulloblastoma, the doctor will examine your child and ask you questions about your child’s health. The doctor also may do a neurological exam to test reflexes, muscle strength, vision and other functions of the brain and spine.

If anything appears abnormal, the doctor may refer your child to a neurologist, neurosurgeon or neuro-oncologist, doctors who specialize in the nervous system.

One or more of the following tests may be used to find out if your child has a medulloblastoma and if it has spread. These tests also may be used to find out if treatment is working.

Imaging tests, which may include:

  • CT (computed tomography) scans
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • PET (positive emission tomography) scan

Biopsy: If an MRI or CT of the brain shows a tumor in the lower part of the back of the brain, medulloblastoma may be a possibility. A biopsy will be needed to confirm the diagnosis. In a biopsy, a tissue sample is removed from the tumor and looked at with a microscope.

A biopsy may be done by either of three methods: 

Surgery: In an operation called a craniotomy, all or part of the brain tumor is removed.

Sterotactic (needle) biopsy: If a tumor is difficult to reach, a CT scan may be used to place a hollow needle inside the tumor and remove a small amount of tissue.

Lumbar puncture: A small amount of cerebrospinal fluid (clear liquid in and around the brain and spine) is removed with a needle and looked at with a microscope.

Medulloblastoma Classification

After a medulloblastoma has been surgically removed, it will be classified in one of two categories. 

Standard risk medulloblastoma:

  • Less than 1.5 centimeters of tumor is left after surgery
  • Cancer has not spread
  • Patient is between 3 and 21 years old

High-risk medulloblastoma:

  • More than 1.5 centimeters of tumor is left after surgery or cancer has spread to another part of the body
  • Patient is between between 3 and 21 years old

Research has identified at least four distinct subtypes of medulloblastoma. The pediatric brain tumor team at Children’s Cancer Hospital has the expertise to treat each subtype accordingly to its molecular properties.

If your child has been diagnosed with medulloblastoma, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Personalized multidisciplinary team approach
  • Leading-edge technology and treatments, including proton therapy, functional MRI, Gamma Knife, targeted therapies
  • Surgical expertise of top pediatric neurosurgeons
  • Range of clinical trials of innovative therapies, including personalized targeted therapies
  • Family-centered care, comprehensive support services

Medulloblastoma Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Childhood medulloblastoma is treated in our:

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Getting a Second Opinion at Children’s Cancer Hospital

The pediatric cancer experts at Children’s Cancer Hospital welcome the opportunity to provide second opinions for medulloblastoma.

If you would like to get a second opinion at Children’s Cancer Hospital, call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center