The key difference between neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma is that neuroblastoma is a cancer of immature nerve cells that starts outside of the brain, usually in the nerve tissue near the upper spine, chest, abdomen, or pelvis, while medulloblastoma is a brain cancer that starts in the lower back part of the brain called the cerebellum.
The nervous system is a complex collection of nerves. The specialized cells in the nervous system are called neurons. These cells transmit signals between different parts of the body. It is the electrical wiring of the body. There are two types of nervous systems in the body: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves whereas the peripheral nervous system consists of sensory neurons, ganglia, and nerves that connect to one another and to the central nervous system. Neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma are cancers related to the nervous system.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Neuroblastoma
3. What is Medulloblastoma
4. Similarities Between Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma
5. Side by Side Comparison – Neuroblastoma vs Medulloblastoma in Tabular Form
What is Neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastoma is a cancer that starts in some very early forms of nerve cells. Often these nerve cells are immature and are found in an embryo or fetus. It occurs in infants and young children but is rare in children older than 10 years. Neuroblastomas are found in early neuron cells called neuroblasts. These neuroblasts are in the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is a part of the autonomous nervous system and includes nerve fibres run along the spinal cord, ganglia, and nerve-like cells found in the medulla of the adrenal gland.
Most of the neuroblastomas begin in sympathetic nerve ganglia in the abdomen. About half of the above start in the adrenal gland. The rest of the neuroblastoma start in the sympathetic ganglia near the chest, neck, or pelvis. Some neuroblastomas spread and grow quickly, while others grow very slowly. Sometimes, in young children, the tumour cells die on their own and go away for no reason. In other cases, the tumour cells mature on their own and develop into normal ganglion cells. Thus, they stop dividing, and this makes the tumour a benign ganglioneuroma. For high-risk neuroblastoma, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery can be used as treatments.
What is Medulloblastoma?
Medulloblastoma is a brain cancer that starts in the lower back part of the brain, which is involved in muscle coordination, balance, and movement. The medulloblastoma tends to spread to other areas around the brain and spinal cord through cerebrospinal fluid. It is a type of embryonal tumour. Medulloblastoma starts in the fetal cells of the brain. Medulloblastoma is not inherited. But diseases like Gorlin’s syndrome or Turcot’s syndrome may increase the risk of this type of cancer. Based on gene mutations, there are at least four subtypes of medulloblastoma.
Most often, medulloblastoma occurs in young children. Symptoms of medulloblastoma may include headaches, tiredness, nausea, dizziness, poor coordination, double vision, unsteady walk, etc. This condition can be diagnosed through neurological exams, CT scan, MRI, biopsy and lumbar puncture. The treatments for medulloblastoma usually include surgery after radiation or chemotherapy.
What are the Similarities Between Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma?
- Neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma are tumours connected to the nervous system.
- They are types of embryonal tumours.
- Both are common in children.
- They have common treatment regimens such as surgery and radiation.
- They are both rare in adults.
What is the Difference Between Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma?
Neuroblastoma is a cancer of immature nerve cells that starts outside of the brain, usually in the nerve tissue near the upper spine, chest, abdomen, or pelvis. On the other hand, medulloblastoma is a brain cancer that starts in the lower back part of the brain called the cerebellum. So, this is the key difference between neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma. Moreover, neuroblastoma can be inherited, but medulloblastoma is not inherited.
The below infographic shows the differences between neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma in tabular form.
Summary – Neuroblastoma vs Medulloblastoma
Cancers in the brain and nervous system are the second most common type of cancers in childhood after leukaemia. These types of cancers develop in the brain, spinal cord, or other nerve cells in the nervous system. Neuroblastoma is a cancer that starts outside of the brain in some very early immature forms of nerve cells near the upper spine, chest, abdomen, or pelvis. Medulloblastoma is a brain cancer that starts in the cerebellum. Thus, this is the summary of the difference between neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma.
1. “Neuroblastoma.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 13 Nov. 2020, Available here.
2. “Medulloblastoma Diagnosis and Treatment.” National Cancer Institute, Available here.