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Pediatric Medulloblastoma

Pediatric medulloblastoma is a type of tumor that typically starts in the brain and can spread elsewhere in the brain and spinal cord. Children’s Health offers state-of-the-art therapies to treat these cancers and a team of physicians – on the faculty at UT Southwestern Medical School – who work together to give your child the best opportunity to get back to normal childhood.

What is Pediatric Medulloblastoma?

Medulloblastoma develops from cells in the brain that are believed to be primitive nerve cells. Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor in children and only rarely affects adults.

Each year, around 600 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with this tumor. They are commonly diagnosed in children between the ages of 1 and 10 years.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Medulloblastoma?

Medulloblastomas can press into the brain or spinal cord, which can affect your child’s ability to think, move and do other tasks. These tumors can cause symptoms such as:

  • General weakness or lack of energy
  • Headaches
  • Loss of balance or trouble walking
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble with handwriting or speech
  • Problems with coordination
  • Seizures
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Weakness on one side of the face

How is Pediatric Medulloblastoma diagnosed?

First, your child will have an MRI. This is a magnetic scan that allows us to locate the tumor (if there is one) and measure its size. Next, we do a biopsy to relieve any pressure caused by the tumor and confirm the diagnosis of medulloblastoma.

We also routinely do subtyping of medulloblastomas. The different subtypes of medulloblastomas are treated differently with special drugs. Subtyping can help select the best treatment for your child.

What causes Pediatric Medulloblastoma?

The exact cause of medulloblastoma in most children is not known. Some children with medulloblastomas have a “genetic predisposition,” which means their genes put them at higher risk of developing this and related cancers. Since families share many of the same genes, other family members may also be at higher risk of certain cancers. If a genetic predisposition to cancer is found, we may recommend that parents and siblings have genetic testing.

How is Pediatric Medulloblastoma treated?

We adjust our approach depending on your child’s age and their type of tumor. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery: We remove as much of the tumor as possible when we do the biopsy. This can reduce your child’s symptoms and give us a head start on treatment.
  • Radiation: For children age 3 or older, we can treat their tumor with radiation therapy. We offer both X-ray radiation and proton therapy, which is more precise and has fewer side effects. Radiation can cause problems for children under age 3, so we usually use different treatments for kids in that age group.
  • Chemotherapy: This involves using medicine to kill the cancer cells. Our team includes chemotherapy experts who know the right doses to destroy the cancer while keeping side effects to a minimum.
  • Targeted therapies: We can treat some types of medulloblastoma with specific drugs that target the genes that help those tumors grow. This may stop the tumor from getting bigger, shrink it or kill it all the way. Children's Health℠ does a DNA test on all tumors, to see if a targeted therapy will work.

Pediatric Medulloblastoma Doctors and Providers

We offer care from doctors and other specialists who focus specifically on brain tumors. Physicians practicing at Children’s Health are also on the faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center and have seen more children with medulloblastoma than almost any other center in the region. Our experience and teamwork help us act quickly to treat your child’s cancer and reduce their pain and symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the survival rate for pediatric medulloblastoma?

    The survival rate is around 85% for children with medulloblastoma that hasn’t spread to other parts of their body. The rate is lower in cases where the cancer spreads.

  • Do you offer proton therapy for medulloblastoma?

    We do. Proton therapy kills cancer cells by shooting high-energy particles (called protons) directly at the tumor. This often causes fewer side effects than other radiation therapy, which uses X-rays. It can also have fewer side effects than chemotherapy, which sends chemicals throughout the whole body.