Posterior Fossa Tumors in Children

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Many different types of brain tumors can arise from the posterior fossa, but the most common are medulloblastoma, ependymoma, and low-grade astrocytoma.

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What are childhood posterior fossa tumors?

Childhood posterior fossa tumors are a group of pediatric brain tumors that form in or near the base of the skull in an area called the posterior fossa. More than half of all childhood brain tumors arise from the posterior fossa.

Tumors in the posterior fossa can block the flow of spinal fluid and cause pressure on the brain and spinal cord. This can be very dangerous. It's important to treat posterior fossa tumors quickly and aggressively.

Common types of posterior fossa tumors include:

What are the symptoms of childhood posterior fossa tumors?

Symptoms can include:

  • Headaches, especially in the morning
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of balance
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Vision changes
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Facial weakness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures

How are childhood posterior fossa tumors diagnosed?

The multi-disciplinary pediatric brain tumor team at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center will start the assessment with a discussion of your child's health history and a thorough physical examination. A detailed neurological evaluation will include tests of reflexes, muscles, coordination and alertness. Diagnostic tests may include CT or MRI scans.

Your child's pediatric neurosurgeon may recommend a biopsy to verify the presence of a tumor, find out what type of tumor it is and determine whether it is cancerous. During a biopsy, a small piece of tumor is removed and examined under a microscope. A biopsy is sometimes performed during surgery. Other times a small hole is made in the skull and a needle is used to remove a sample of the tumor.

What is the treatment for posterior fossa tumors?

For the best chance of a cure, treatment begins with a pediatric brain tumor resection. The goal of pediatric brain tumor resection is to remove as much of the tumor as possible.

After that, treatment depends on the age of the child, the specific type of tumor and the result of the brain tumor resection surgery.

Through our partnership with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, children with brain tumors have access to promising new treatments not yet available at other hospitals.

Why Le Bonheur Children's?

Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center, in conjunction with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, is home to the nation's largest Pediatric Surgical Brain Tumor Program. Together, we are nationally known for our aggressive surgical approaches and groundbreaking treatments of brain tumors in children and adolescents.
Children with brain tumors receive care from a multidisciplinary group of physicians, scientists, nurses and support staff representing the many types of treatments and support crucial to the comprehensive care of children with brain tumors.

This team includes pediatric neurosurgeons at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center and neuro-oncologists and pediatric radiation oncologists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Through this multi-hospital collaboration, each child's care is supported by physicians representing radiology, neuropsychology, neuropathology and neuroendocrinology, plus specially trained nurses, rehabilitation specialists, pharmacists, nutritionists and audiologists.

The Pediatric Brain Tumor Program is a key component of Le Bonheur's Neuroscience Institute, a center of excellence dedicated to the evaluation and treatment of neurological disorders. Children from across the country visit Le Bonheur each year to be treated at the Institute.