Medulloblastoma is a cancerous tumour of the brain and the central nervous system, most commonly seen in children. It originates from the back of the skull, mostly the cerebellum. The cerebellum is responsible for our movements, muscle coordination and balance. Medulloblastoma is a malignant tumour and often spreads through the cerebrospinal fluid. It usually spreads to the brain and spinal cord.
Seen in age groups below 16 years, Medulloblastoma is still rare in India. In adults, if present, it is among age groups 20 years to 40 years. They are fast-growing and thus identify as Grade IV tumours.
Sign and Symptoms of Medulloblastoma
Sign and symptoms in children due to medulloblastoma inside the brain include
- Double vision
- Speech problem
- Face numbness
- Nausea or vomiting in the morning, which gets worse with time
- Poor coordination
- Unsteady walk
- Passing out
If cancer has spread into the spinal cord, the symptoms visible are
- Back pain
- Trouble walking
- Bowel function problems
These signs and symptoms may also be due to pressure buildup with the brain.
What Tests Can Diagnose This Tumour?
Medical history is taken, and the signs and symptoms are recorded. After that, some diagnostic tests are conducted to identify and confirm the diagnosis. These include
- Neurological Examinations: Aspects like vision, balance, hearing, coordination and reflexes are checked to verify which part of the brain is affected.
- Imaging tests: A CT scan or an MRI may be advised by a doctor. These help in narrowing down the location and the size of the tumour. They can also help identify pressurised areas and blockages in the CSF pathway.
- Biopsy: This is not done in most cases but may be advised in case the other reports are inconclusive.
- Lumber puncher: It is used to remove CSF fluid from the spine. It is also known as Spinal tap. The fluid is checked for tumour cells or other abnormalities.
What are the Treatment Options Available?
A multidisciplinary approach is required to treat such a disease. A team of doctors works with the patient, often a child, and the family. The treatment options are discussed in detail with the family, and a consent is taken. Other than the doctor, child therapists, dieticians, the physical and occupational therapists also play a role in the patient getting well.
The treatment options available are
- Surgery to relieve intracranial pressure, due to the blocked path of the CSF
- Surgery to remove the medulloblastoma, which can also be combined with other treatment options
- Radiation therapy in which high-intensity X rays are used to kill the tumor cells
- Chemotherapy in which strong drugs are used to limit and destroy the growing tumor cells
- Stem-cell transplant for recurrent medulloblastoma
To know more about Medulloblastoma, read the article by Dr Tejinder Kataria, Chairperson, Radiation Oncology, Cancer Institute of Medanta The Medicity, below
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