Medulloblastoma: symptoms, causes and treatment

Cancer encompasses a collection of diseases caused by a disproportionate proliferation of cells in certain organs of the body. Cancer affects both adults and children. More specifically, in the pediatric population, the most common cancer in brain tumors is medulloblastoma.

This type of malignant tumor affects the brain and can also affect the spinal cord. Embryonic stem cells proliferate in excess. In this article, we will know its characteristics, causes, symptoms, treatments used to eradicate it and survival rates.

    Medulloblastoma: characteristics

    Medulloblastoma is a type of brain tumor; specifically, it is a malignant, that is, cancerous brain tumor. Note that tumors are excessive and abnormal cell proliferation in certain organs of the body; tumors can be benign or malignant (cancer).

    Medulloblastoma usually starts in the cerebellum, Located in the lower and back of the brain. This structure is responsible for coordinating movement and allowing balance. This is why one of its symptoms is impaired coordination, gait and balance.

    This type of malignancy is usually distributed throughout the brain (and even the spinal cord) through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a substance that protects these structures. It is not uncommon for the bone marrow to metastasize (spread the tumor) to parts of the body other than these.

      Prevalence and distribution

      Another characteristic of medullary blastoma is that it is a rare cancer; on the other hand, although it can appear at any age, young children suffer the most (Most medulloblastomas appear before the age of 16).

      In the United States, for example, between 250 and 500 new cases of medulloblastoma are diagnosed each year, all of them children. In fact, it is the most common malignant brain tumor in children (between 15 and 25% of cases). In terms of gender distribution, it is slightly higher for boys than for girls. In adults, however, it accounts for only 1% of brain tumors.


      Symptoms of medulloblastoma can vary from person to person. Additionally, these can be caused by the medulloblastoma itself or by the pressure it puts on the brain. However, there are a number of common symptoms, such as headache, double vision, dizziness, fatigue

      Alterations in coordination also appear. These result, for example, in an unstable gait (especially when the tumor has spread to the spinal cord). Both impaired coordination and instability of gait are linked to the involvement of the cerebellum.. In addition, the person with bone marrow may show clumsiness, fall, objects may fall, etc.

      Another symptom of spinal cord blastoma is nausea, which usually appears in the morning.; on the other hand, vomiting also appears, which progressively worsens in intensity and frequency.

      On the other hand, if the more malignant tumor has reached the spinal cord, the symptoms may be as follows plus: difficulty walking, back pain, and problems with sphincter control.

      the causes

      The origin of the cancer remains unknown. We are talking about a multifactorial cause, which varies according to the type of cancer. The factors linked to the etiology of cancer are genetic factors, linked to lifestyle (smoking, diet, exercise, etc.), infectious factors, chemical factors (exposure to substances, radiation, etc.), etc.

      However, cancer is known to be caused by an excessive and abnormal proliferation of cells, which eventually invade the underlying tissues and even move to more distant areas (metastasize). It is also known that the normal mechanisms of cell reproduction and division fail.

      In the case of medulloblastoma, it is a type of embryonic tumor; this means that the tumor comes from embryonic stem cells in the brain. These cells can synthesize any other type of cell in the body.

      Syndromes that increase your risk

      We know that medullary oblastoma is not hereditary; however, it was detected as certain hereditary syndromes (such as Turcot syndrome or Gorlin syndrome) may increase the risk of suffering 1.

      Specifically, Turcot syndrome (also called “brain tumor syndrome”) is characterized by the presence of malignant neoplasms in the central nervous system. For its part, Gorlin syndrome involves multiple basal cell malignancies and other associated neurological alterations.


      Treatment for medulloblastoma is usually surgery to remove the tumor, with subsequent sessions of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. The treatment options generally followed are as follows:

      1. Extraction surgery

      This operation aims to remove the medullary oblastoma and is performed by a neurosurgeon. Always try not to damage the tissues adjacent to the tumor. Sometimes the marrow is completely removed and others not (when it is located in very deep or delicate structures of the brain).

      2. Surgery to reduce CSF

      This is aimed at reducing the accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, which occurs as a result of the growth of the medulloblastoma. This build-up of CSF puts pressure on the brain, causing hydrocephalus.. This second treatment option is usually combined with the previous one.

        3. Chemotherapy

        This treatment option involves the administration of certain medications with the aim of killing cancer cells or to prevent them from dividing further. It is usually given by injection into a vein (called intravenous chemotherapy) in children and adults, although oral medicines (tablets) are also used.

        Chemotherapy is typically used after surgery to remove the tumor and is usually combined with radiation therapy, with the aim of removing any remaining tumor that may remain.

        4. Radiotherapy

        Radiation therapy, like chemotherapy, is widely used in patients with different types of cancer. It consists of administering high doses of radiation (X-ray or other) for the purpose of killing cancer cells and reducing or completely destroying bone marrow oblastoma, as well as stopping cell proliferation.

        The downside to this treatment is that it also kills healthy cells, although more selective radiation therapies are currently in development.

        Survival rate

        The likelihood of surviving a spinal cord loblastoma will vary widely depending on the type of tumor, age of onset, treatment used, areas affected, etc.

        In addition, the survival rate changes whether or not the tumor has spread to the spinal cord; thus, in the event that it has not developed, the survival rate is approximately 70/80%. If, on the other hand, it has increased, the index is around 60%.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Menon, G., Krishnakumar, K., Nair, S. (2008). Adult medulloblastoma: clinical profile and treatment results of 18 patients. J Clin Neuroscience, 15: 122-126.
        • Peris-Bonet, R., Martinez-Garcia, C., Lacour, B., Petrovich, S., Giner-Ripoll, B., Navajas, A., et al. (2006). Tumors of the nervous system in children – incidence and survival in Europe (1978-1997): a report on the automated childhood cancer information system project. Eur J Cancer, 42: 2064-2080.
        • Rodríguez-Mena, R., Barbella-Aponte, RA, Gallec-Sánchez, JM and Barcia-Mariño, C. (2011). Adult medulloblastomas: surgical series of 11 cases. Neurosurgery, 22 (6): 488-497.

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