There are many types of childhood cancer with different symptoms and treatments. Childhood cancer survival rates in the United States have increased from less than 20 percent in the 1960s to almost 80 percent today. Parents are the best advocates for their children so being informed will help guide a family to make the best decisions for the child battling cancer.
Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant primary brain tumor in children and adolescents, originating in the cerebellum or posterior fossa (essentially, the back part of the brain).
Medulloblastomas are the most common “embryonal brain tumors,” arising from the primitive cells responsible for brain development, in this tumor the cells that give rise to the cerebellum, the area of the brain that controls coordination and fine movements. The tumors often occur in very young children, but are common throughout the pediatric age range and into young adults less commonly.
Medulloblastomas are aggressive, rapidly growing tumors that, more commonly than other pediatric brain tumors, spread both by enlarging within or adjacent to the cerebellum and the brainstem, as well as by spread through the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with metastatic deposits occurring in different locations along the surface of the brain and spinal cord.
We currently define medulloblastomas depending upon their appearance under the microscope and the type of genetic defects that mark the tumors as more or less aggressive and responsive to current therapies. Treatment includes surgical resection, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Fortunately, the majority of children survive medulloblastomas, and current approaches aim toward increasing survival and decreasing the side effects of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
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