Treatments for medulloblastoma usually involve surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and sometimes a combination of two or three of these methods. In some cases, stem cell or bone marrow transplantation may be used.
The first treatment for medulloblastoma is usually surgery, which can not only remove some or a portion of the tumor, but can also provide a tissue sample that can be used to diagnose and analyze the tumor. In this type of surgery, called a craniotomy, part of the skull is removed, and the patient’s bone will be used to cover the gap in the skull afterward. Sometimes, tumors are inoperable, in which case other treatment options will be utilized, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or other particles to kill tumor cells, but with children, it can sometimes interfere with the normal growth and development of the brain and spine. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or shrink cancer cells. High-dose chemotherapy may be used before or instead of radiation therapy in children younger than three or four, and before or after radiation in children older than four; however, this method works best after surgery, when (hopefully) most of the tumor has been removed.
Stem cell/bone marrow transplantation may be used for children with recurrent medulloblastoma. In this procedure, diseased bone marrow is replacement by hematopoietic stem cells, which are found in the bloodstream and bone marrow. The goal is to destroy cancer cells in the marrow, blood and other parts of the body and allow the replacement cells to generate healthy bone marrow. This treatment is usually used alongside radiation and/or chemotherapy.