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Ependymomas Defined

Originally published on April 18, 2011
Most recently updated on April 10, 2013

Ependymoma belongs to a group of brain tumors called gliomas. A glioma is a tumor that grows from a glial cell, which is a supportive cell in the brain. Ependymoma can occur in any part of the brain or spine, but most commonly occurs in the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain. Ependymoma start in the ependymal cells that line the ventricles (fluid-filled spaces) in the brain and the central canal of the spinal cord.

The brain and spinal column make up the central nervous system (CNS), where all vital functions are controlled, including thought, speech, and body strength.

Types

Ependymoma is often classified based on its location and whether or not it has spread

Supratentorial:
The tumor is above the membrane that covers the cerebellum, known as the tentorium cerebella.

Infratentorial:
The tumor is growing below the tentorium cerebella.

The tumor can also be described by its grade, which is a measure of how “wild” the cancer cell looks under a microscope.  Lower grade tumors have more normal looking cells and typically have a better prognosis.

Symptoms:

The following symptoms are common in children with ependymoma, although it is possible for children to show no symptoms at all

- Headaches
- Seizure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in vision, such as blurriness
- Difficulty with walking or balance
- Swelling of the nerve at the back of the eye
- Jerky eye movements
- Neck pain

Common Treatments:

Ependymomas are often removed through surgery unless the location of the tumor makes removal unsafe.  Surgery is often followed by radiation based on how many tumor cells remain, the location of the tumor cells, and the age of the patient.  Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-raysor other types of radiationto kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Radiation therapy to the brain must be administered carefully because it can cause growth and developmental delays in children. 

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugsto stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy is not effective against ependymoma when used alone, but has been shown to be beneficial in conjunction with other treatments.  Chemotherapy can either be taken by introducing it to the blood stream or by injecting it directly into the affected tissue.

Clinical Trials are another treatment option in which new treatment methods are being tested to find out if the new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.  More than 60% of children with cancer are treated as a part of a clinical trial.

For more information on ependdymoma's you can also check out the CERN Foundation (Collaborative Ependymoma Research Networks) website

The site contains a wide range of information on ependymoma including: Ependymoma Basics, Brain Anatomy, Symptoms and Causes, Treatment Options, Recurrence and Support and Coping.

cern-foundation.org 

 

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