About

Medulloblastoma


About Medulloblastoma

Medulloblastoma can occur in both children and adults, yet it is more commonly diagnosed in children. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 357 people are diagnosed with medulloblastoma yearly, the majority of whom are under age 15. Medulloblastoma comprises about 15 – 20% of all brain tumors in children, most typically in children between the ages of 3 and 8.


Medulloblastoma is classified as a primary central nervous system (CNS) tumor, meaning it begins in the brain or spinal cord. It is an embryonal neuroepithelial tumor, because it forms in fetal cells that remain from birth. Usually, medulloblastomas form in the cerebellum, which is the bottom part of the brain that controls coordination, balance, and other complex motor skills. These brain tumors grow rapidly and can spread to other areas of the CNS. They can also spread outside the CNS to the lymphatic system or bones, although this is rare.

In most cases, the cause of medulloblastomas is unknown. However, there is a very small percentage of cases that are linked to gene changes passed down through families. These genetic diseases include:

  • Turcot syndrome
  • Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome
  • Nevoid basal cell carcinoma (Gorlin) syndrome
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Fanconi anemia

The location of the tumor is related to the particular symptoms that a child with medulloblastoma may experience. For example:

  • If the tumor is in the cerebellum, the child may have trouble with walking, balancing, using fine motor skills.
  • If the tumor is blocking the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), increased pressure inside the skull can result. This can lead to headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurry or double
  • vision, confusion, sleepiness, seizures, and possibly passing out.
  • If the tumor has spread to the spine, the child may have numbness or weakness in the arms and/or legs, a change in regular bowel or bladder habits, and spinal pain.

All medulloblastoma tumors are categorized as Grade IV tumors, which means they are fast-growing and malignant. In recent years, several cancer research studies have shown that there may be a few different forms or subtypes of medulloblastoma. These subtypes are identified based on the types of genetic mutations found within the tumor, and they are better defined in children than they are in adults. Based on the scientific studies, the four specific molecular subtypes are: WNT-activated, SHH-activated, Group 3 (non-WNT/ non-SHH), and Group 4 (non-WNT/ non-SHH).


What is medulloblastoma?

Medulloblastoma is classified as a primary central nervous system (CNS) tumor, meaning it begins in the brain or spinal cord. It is an embryonal neuroepithelial tumor, because it forms in fetal cells that remain from birth. Usually, medulloblastomas form in the cerebellum, which is the bottom part of the brain that controls coordination, balance, and other complex motor skills. These brain tumors grow rapidly and can spread to other areas of the CNS. They can also spread outside the CNS to the lymphatic system or bones, although this is rare.

 

What are the risk factors for medulloblastoma in children?

In most cases, the cause of medulloblastomas is unknown. However, there is a very small percentage of cases that are linked to gene changes passed down through families.
These genetic diseases include:

  • Turcot syndrome
  • Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome
  • Nevoid basal cell carcinoma (Gorlin) syndrome
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
  • Fanconi anemia

 

What are the symptoms of medulloblastoma?

The location of the tumor is related to the particular symptoms that a child with medulloblastoma may experience. For example:

  • If the tumor is in the cerebellum, the child may have trouble with walking, balancing, using fine motor skills.
  • If the tumor is blocking the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), increased pressure inside the skull can result. This can lead to headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurry or double vision, confusion, sleepiness, seizures, and possibly passing out.
  • If the tumor has spread to the spine, the child may have numbness or weakness in the arms and/or legs, a change in regular bowel or bladder habits, and spinal pain.

 

How many types of medulloblastoma are there?

All medulloblastoma tumors are categorized as Grade IV tumors, which means they are fast-growing and malignant. In recent years, several cancer research studies have shown that there may be a few different forms or subtypes of medulloblastoma. These subtypes are identified based on the types of genetic mutations found within the tumor, and they are better defined in children than they are in adults. Based on the scientific studies, the four specific molecular subtypes are: WNT-activated, SHH-activated, Group 3 (non-WNT/ non-SHH), and Group 4 (non-WNT/ non-SHH).

 

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