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While medulloblastoma is rare, it is the most common pediatric malignant (cancerous) brain tumor. Approximately 20% of childhood brain tumors are medulloblastomas. According to the American Cancer Society, about 500 children are diagnosed with medulloblastoma each year in the United States. There are four known subtypes of childhood medulloblastoma. The exact subtype can impact a patient’s treatment plan in some situations.
In adults, medulloblastoma represents only 1% of all malignant brain tumors. It typically affects younger adults (between 20 and 40 years of age). Only about 200 adults are diagnosed with medulloblastoma each year in the United States. Doctors have identified three subtypes of adult medulloblastoma. As with childhood medulloblastoma, different subtypes may call for different treatment plans.
Medulloblastomas start in the cerebellum, in the region of the brain at the base of the skull called the posterior fossa. This is the part of the brain that controls balance and other complex motor and cognitive functions. While medulloblastomas often grow quickly and can spread to other parts of the nervous system and the body, especially the bones or bone marrow, they usually respond well to treatment.
Medulloblastoma risk factors
Anything that increases the chance of developing medulloblastoma is a risk factor. Although the cause of medulloblastoma is not known, certain things may increase the risk.
- Age: Most medulloblastoma cases are diagnosed before age 16, and usually between the ages of 3 and 8. In adults, it is rarely seen after the age of 40.
- Gender: Medulloblastoma is more common in boys than girls. In adults, it is also more common in men than in women.
- Genetic conditions: People with cancer predisposition syndromes like Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Turcot syndrome and Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome) are more likely to develop medulloblastoma. See our hereditary cancer syndromes page for more information.
Learn more about medulloblastoma:
In rare cases, medulloblastoma can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Visit our genetic testing page to learn more.
Why choose MD Anderson for medulloblastoma care?
Medulloblastoma tumors may look similar under the microscope, but research shows there are four subtypes of childhood medulloblastoma. The Children’s Cancer Hospital has a team of leading neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neuropathologists and neuroscientists that work together to develop treatment plans based on each patient’s tumor. This increases the chances for successful treatment. These plans may include access to clinical trials for newly diagnosed and recurrent medulloblastoma.
Since the Children's Cancer Hospital is designed just for children, we provide a full range of services and amenities that help make the child and family's experience as comfortable as possible, including a school, art programming, day trips and summer camps. We go beyond medical care to deliver a comprehensive experience that treats the whole child.
Adult medulloblastoma care
In adults, medulloblastoma is rare, but it’s not rare to our multidisciplinary team at the Anne C. Brooks Brain and Spine Center.
Our physicians, including neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neuropsychologists, neuropathologists and neuroradiologists, have the experience and expertise to treat patients who develop medulloblastoma later in life. They work together to create treatment plans for each adult medulloblastoma patient and to develop new experimental therapies for the disease.
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