Medulloblastoma is a rare, malignant brain tumor that is most common in children and young adults under age 25.
Signs You Should Get Your Child Help for Medulloblastoma
Medulloblastomas cause swelling in the brain, which can lead to the following brain tumor symptoms you might notice in your child:
- Vomiting, especially in the morning
- Increasing head size
- Excessive sleepiness
- Refusal to eat
- Eye drooping
- Eye movement problems and/or double vision
- Impaired bowel and bladder function
- Weakness in the legs
Having these symptoms does not mean your child has a brain tumor. Many other conditions have similar symptoms. Your doctor at Rush can help you determine the root of your child’s problem.
Medulloblastoma Treatment at Rush
A multidisciplinary team of specialists at Rush University Children’s Hospital and Rush University Cancer Center works with your family to determine the best and most appropriate treatments, depending on your child’s tumor and developmental stage.
Treatment could include the following:
- Cancer surgery: Your child may need surgery to diagnose or treat the brain tumor.
- Minimally invasive surgery: When possible, pediatric neurosurgeons use endoscopic approaches to remove tumors that can be reached through the nose. Endoscopic approaches reduce recovery time after surgery.
- Open surgery: If your child needs traditional open surgery, pediatric neurosurgeons use the smallest openings possible. They’re able to do this by using computer-guided, 3D maps of your child’s brain to help them identify and separate the tumor from healthy tissue.
- Chemotherapy: Your child may need chemotherapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and prevent them from spreading.
- Targeted therapy: When molecular mutations are identified in tumors, your child’s pediatric oncologist may recommend drugs that specifically attack those mutations. These therapies tend to cause few side effects because the drugs do not affect noncancerous cells.
- Immunotherapy: These drugs help your child’s immune system attack brain cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: Your child may need radiation therapy as well. To limit the side effects of radiation in children, radiation oncologists at Rush determine how to use the lowest possible amount of radiation to target cancer cells, while leaving children’s healthy tissue unharmed. One of these innovative approaches may be used:
- Stereotactic radiosurgery: This nonsurgical radiation therapy may be used for small, well-defined tumors. A single high-dose of radiation is delivered to the tumor, using the TrueBeam STx system, which minimizes damage to healthy surrounding tissue and reduces the amount of radiation therapy needed.
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT): Radiation oncologists at Rush may use an image-guided system (TomoTherapy Hi-Art or Varian Trilogy) to precisely pinpoint a tumor. IGRT can adjust for changes in a young child’s position as well as tumor changes throughout treatment.
- Rehabilitation: Sometimes brain tumors or treatments can cause developmental delays and problems with growth and development, and other issues, including speech and vision problems. Pediatric development specialists, pediatric psychologists, and pediatric rehabilitation medicine specialists — which include physical, occupational and speech therapists — work with children of all ages to identify and address these issues.
- Alternative and complementary therapies: Your child can receive counseling, massage therapy, acupuncture, nutritional counseling and other supportive therapies.
- Palliative care: Pediatric palliative care specialists offer an additional layer of care and support to your child as they undergo treatment for a brain tumor. Palliative care focuses on improving your child’s quality of life, managing pain and providing emotional support for your child and your family.
- Long-term monitoring and support: Your child’s care team will follow your child through adulthood to quickly identify and address any cancer recurrence. At our long-term follow-up clinic, your child’s care team will include an oncologist, nurse educator and psychologist. They work closely with your child’s primary care clinician to monitor your child for possible late effects of pediatric cancers.
- Pediatric rehabilitation: This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy to manage the effects of the cancer and treatments.
Rush Excellence in Medulloblastoma Care
- Nationally ranked experts: Take comfort knowing that your child is in the hands of some of the best cancer experts in the country. The neurosurgery and neurology programs at Rush University Medical Center are ranked No. 4 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, and our cancer program is ranked among the best in the nation as well.
- Top brain surgery expertise in the Chicago area: Neurosurgeons at our downtown Chicago location consistently perform the highest number of brain surgeries in the Chicago area. That means Rush neurosurgeons — and our operating room staff — have extensive experience treating everything from common to complex brain tumor cases.
- Quality of life for your child and the whole family: The children's cancer team puts your child's quality of life and your entire family’s needs first. The Child Life Program at Rush University Children’s Hospital uses therapeutic play, art and other forms of self-expression to help your child cope with the stress and difficulty of being in a hospital. Pediatric psychologists also are available to support your child before, during and after treatment.
- Expert second opinions: If you're looking to confirm your child's brain tumor diagnosis and fully explore all your potential treatment options, we encourage you to consult with our second opinion services.
- Innovative, advanced treatments: Your child will have access to the latest treatments for medulloblastoma. As a member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), Rush offers our pediatric and young adult patients opportunities to enroll in National Cancer Institute-backed clinical trials of new treatments for pediatric cancers, including medulloblastoma and other brain tumors.