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Your child's personal team of physicians utilizes the latest diagnosis and medulloblastoma treatment options. Since they specialize only in pediatric oncology, they have a high degree of knowledge and experience with the issues that matter to children and their families.
Renowned Care and Research
Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor in children. While these tumors may look similar under the microscope, research has shown they belong to four subtypes. Our team of leading neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists and neuroscientists has the experience to personalize treatment based on each tumor's subtype. This increases the chances for successful treatment of medulloblastoma.
The Children's Cancer Hospital offers clinical trials for innovative new medulloblastoma treatment options. And, behind the scenes we are working on groundbreaking basic science research to change the future of pediatric brain cancer.
Treating the Whole Child
Children's Cancer Hospital is designed just for children, with a full range of services and amenities that help make the child and family's experience as comfortable as possible. We go beyond medical care to deliver a comprehensive experience that treats the whole child.
And at MD Anderson's Children's Cancer Hospital, you're surrounded by the strength of one of the nation's top cancer centers.
While medulloblastoma is rare, it is the most common pediatric malignant (cancerous) brain tumor. About 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.
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 functions. While medulloblastomas often grow quickly and spread to other parts of the body, especially the bones or bone marrow, they usually respond well to treatment.
Medulloblastoma Risk Factors
Anything that increases your child’s chance of developing medulloblastoma is a risk factor. Although
the cause of medulloblastoma is not known, certain things may increase a child's risk.
- Age: Most medulloblastoma cases are diagnosed before age 16, and usually between the ages of 3 and 8.
- Gender: Medulloblastoma is more common in boys than girls.
- Genetic conditions: People with Li-Fraumeni syndrome and Nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome) are more likely to develop 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.
Did You Know?
Parks and gardens at our Texas Medical Center location provide a place for patients and visitors to relax.
The symptoms of medulloblastoma vary from child to child. Some signs of medulloblastoma include:
- Headaches (May be worse in the morning and get better during the day)
- Nausea or vomiting in the morning
- Problems with motor skills, such as clumsiness or poor handwriting
- Tilting of the head to one side
- Walking difficulty and balance problems
Sometimes medulloblastoma can spread to other parts of the brain and the spinal cord. If this happens, the child may have:
- Back pain
- Difficulty walking
- Inability to control bladder and bowel functions
These symptoms do not always mean your child has medulloblastoma. However, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor, since they may signal other health problems.
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 diagnostic 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 help doctors guide 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.
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 844-264-4976 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.
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 three and 21 years old
- 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.
At MD Anderson’s Children’s Cancer Hospital, your child’s treatment is carefully customized by highly specialized experts. They take a team approach to deliver the most advanced therapies with the fewest possible short- and long-term side effects, keeping a constant eye on your child’s quality of life.
This team of experts may include renowned pediatric neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neuro-oncologists and pathologists, all of whom specialize in delivering care to children. They are supported by a specially trained staff of nurses, therapists and other care professionals. This team remains with your child from diagnosis through follow-up, providing consistency and peace of mind.
Because of advanced treatments, more than two-thirds of children with medulloblastoma can be treated successfully. However, as many as 25% of these tumors recur. When medulloblastomas recur, treatment can be challenging and have less chance of success.
Our team specializes in treating relapsed brain tumors, including medulloblastoma.
Like all surgeries, pediatric brain tumor surgery is most successful when performed by a specialist with a great deal of experience in the particular procedure. This is especially true with brain tumors, because it is crucial to remove as much of the tumor as possible while leaving intact as much brain function as possible.
Children’s Cancer Hospital neurosurgeons are among the most skilled and recognized in the world. They perform a large number of pediatric brain tumor surgeries each year, using the least-invasive and most-advanced techniques.
In addition, we offer a range of clinical trials of medulloblastoma clinical trials of innovative treatments, including targeted therapies.
Leading Advancements in Treatment
We developed an innovative surgical technique of placing a catheter in the posterior part of the brain called the fourth ventricle. Chemotherapy can be given directly into this region of the brain. We are also pioneering the use of immunotherapy, which unleashes the body's own immune system against disease, as a treatment for recurrent medulloblastoma.
If your child has been diagnosed with medulloblastoma, we’re here to help. Call 844-264-4976 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.
Our Medulloblastoma Treatments
Your child’s treatment for medulloblastoma will be customized based on several factors, including, your child's age and health, the size and location and size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.
Medulloblastoma treatment almost always includes surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible without affecting surrounding areas. Studies have shown that if doctors remove more of the tumor, the chances for successful treatment are better.
If the tumor is blocking the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds the brain and spine, it may cause a condition called hydrocephalus, a build up of fluid that increases pressure in the skull. In these cases, surgery may be done to place a ventriculo-peritoneal shunt (VP shunt). This also is called an endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV). This small hole allows CSF to flow into the spinal column and relieves pressure.
After surgery, most children receive chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Children’s Cancer Hospital offers the most up-to-date and advanced chemotherapy options for pediatric brain tumors.
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. Some children receive radiation therapy after surgery to stop or slow the growth of brain tumors that cannot be removed with surgery.
New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow Children’s Cancer Hospital doctors to target brain tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
MD Anderson uses the most advanced radiation treatment methods, including:
- Stereotactic radiosurgery, which is not really surgery. It delivers a pinpoint dose of radiation from hundreds of angles
- Focused radiation therapy, which is aimed directly at the tumor and the surrounding area
- Whole-brain radiation therapy, which may be needed if a child has more than one brain tumor
- Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), which shapes the radiation beam to the brain tumor and lessens exposure to the rest of the brain
The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson is one of the largest and most advanced centers in the world. It’s the only proton therapy facility in the country located within a comprehensive cancer center. This means this cutting-edge therapy is backed by all the expertise and compassionate care for which MD Anderson is known.
The dedicated pediatric radiation oncologists at the Proton Therapy Center have a depth of experience in treating children with medulloblastoma.
Children’s Cancer Hospital is leading into the future of pediatric brain cancer treatment by developing innovative targeted therapies. These agents are specially designed to treat each cancer’s specific genetic/molecular profile to help the body fight the disease. Many of the doctors who treat brain tumors at Children’s Cancer Hospital are dedicated researchers who have pioneered and actively lead national and international clinical trials with novel targeted agents.
Using gene analysis and tumor protein evaluation, we are able to understand the molecular biology of relapsed tumors and design personalized therapy.
December 20, 2016
My first thought after being diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 26 was fear. Would I die? Would the things I worked for no longer be possible? How was I going to handle brain tumor surgery and cancer treatment when I can’t even handle flu shots? Even what I was going to look like with no hair scared me.
I was diagnosed with adult medulloblastoma one month before my graduation from law school. Medulloblastoma is a type of brain...