Medulloblastoma is a cancerous brain tumor that starts near your brainstem, in your cerebellum. The tumor is fast growing and can spread to other areas of your brain and spinal cord. Medulloblastoma is more common in children than adults. Treatments include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Medulloblastoma is a cancerous tumor of your central nervous system (CNS). It forms in the posterior fossa region of your brain, in an area called the cerebellum.
Primarily a childhood disease, medulloblastoma mostly affects children and teens under the age of 16. Though rarer in older individuals, it can occur in adults as well. Medulloblastoma in adults is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 44.
This type of cancer is rare, affecting between 350 and 500 children and adults in the U.S. each year. It is, however, the most common type of brain cancer (brain tumor) affecting children. Most cases are diagnosed between the ages of five and nine.
Medulloblastoma is usually fast growing. It spreads to other parts of your brain and spinal cord through cerebrospinal fluid (a clear fluid that protects your brain and spinal cord from injury).
Astrocytoma and medulloblastoma are both tumors found in your central nervous system. However, they originate in different areas. While medulloblastoma begins in your cerebellum, astrocytoma begins in star-shaped glial cells called astrocytes, usually on the outer curve of your brain. Astrocytoma is a type of glioma.
Medulloblastoma symptoms can vary depending on several factors, including a person’s age, the size of the tumor and the stage of development. These symptoms may be due to the location of the tumor or because of pressure buildup inside their brain. Warning signs may include:
The exact cause of medulloblastoma is unknown. But there are certain genetic conditions that could increase your or your child’s risk for developing the condition, including:
Your healthcare provider will talk with you about symptoms and review your medical history in detail. If they suspect medulloblastoma, they’ll order tests to confirm your diagnosis.
There are a few different tests that can help your healthcare provider make a diagnosis. These assessments may include:
The treatment recommended for your situation depends on many factors, including age, overall health and the extent of the tumor. Options include:
Length of treatment can vary from person to person. Those who undergo any type of brain surgery usually need at least four to eight weeks to recover. For chemotherapy or radiation therapy, treatment could last several weeks or several months, depending on the case. To learn more about your or your child’s estimated treatment time, talk with your healthcare provider.
Aside from radiation exposure, there are currently no known environmental or lifestyle-related risk factors for brain cancer in children. So, there isn’t a way to prevent medulloblastoma.
A team of medical experts, including oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists and physical therapists, will make up your healthcare team. They’ll work with you to design a personalized treatment plan according to your specific needs.
In many cases, yes. While medulloblastoma has the potential to spread throughout your entire nervous system, many people can be cured. There’s a higher chance of survival if the medulloblastoma hasn’t spread to other parts of your brain and spinal cord.
The five-year survival rate for medulloblastoma is over 70%. It means that over 70% of all people who are diagnosed with medulloblastoma are still alive five years later. This number is based on outcomes of medulloblastoma cases in the past. Keep in mind, survival rates can’t tell you how long you or your child will live. To better understand survival rates or your potential outcome, talk to your healthcare provider.
If you or your child develops symptoms such as headaches, nausea, confusion or vision changes, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately. Those who’re already undergoing medulloblastoma treatment should inform their healthcare provider about any side effects. They can help you manage your symptoms and ease your discomfort.
A full understanding of your or your child’s diagnosis can help you make an informed decision regarding treatment. Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider if you or your child has been diagnosed with medulloblastoma:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A brain tumor diagnosis is mentally, emotionally and spiritually taxing. And when it affects your child, it’s unthinkable. But there are effective treatments that offer hope. Ask your healthcare provider about clinical trials, which are new treatments that’ll hopefully improve outcomes. Also, talk to your healthcare provider about the resources available to you and consider joining a support group. Being around others who’re going through the same thing can offer insight and comfort as you navigate this difficult time.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/18/2022.
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