Quality of long-term survival in young children with medulloblastoma

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  • 1 Departments of Neurosurgery, Hematology-Oncology, Psychology, and Neurology, Children's National Medical Center; Departments of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Neurology, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC; and Clinical Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
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✓ The reported success of treatment for children with medulloblastoma must be balanced against the effect that treatment has on the quality of life of long-term survivors. The outcome of long-term survivors reported in previous studies has been conflicting. The authors evaluate the mental and behavioral skills of a group of medulloblastoma survivors from their institution, all of whom had survived for more than 5 years postdiagnosis. A review of the institutional records yielded 32 patients. Twenty-three families were interviewed by telephone and, of these, 13 subjects came to the hospital for detailed neuropsychological and neurological evaluations.

Intelligence quotient (IQ) was less than 90 for all participants tested, and patients diagnosed before the age of 3 years had lower IQ scores on average than those diagnosed later. Mean IQ and achievement test scores in reading, spelling, and mathematics were all higher in survivors who had undergone shunting. Achievement test results were often not in accord with intellectual potential, and individual intellectual skills varied widely. Perceptual-motor task performance was below average in more than 50% of the participants, but motor dexterity was more severely affected than perception. Problems in learning and a delay in both physical growth and development were seen in a majority of participants.

This study directs attention to the serious difficulties faced by long-term survivors of medulloblastoma and their families, and underscores the importance of routine neuropsychological testing. Moreover, the study provides further impetus to seek alternatives to irradiation in the treatment of malignant brain tumors.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Dennis L. Johnson, M.D., Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, P. O. Box 850, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033.
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