Ependymomas are tumors that arise from cells that are found lining the ventricular system (areas of the brain or spinal cord where spinal fluid is found). These tumors are most commonly found in the fourth ventricle, one of the fluid-filled areas in the back part of the brain. In rare cases, they are found in the spinal cord.
Children with ependymomas are treated at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through the Brain Tumor Center. Continue reading to learn more about ependymomas or visit the Brain Tumor Center homepage to learn about our expertise and approach to treating this condition.
Ependymoma symptoms often depend on the size and location of the tumor. These tumors can block the normal flow of CSF, the colorless fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, which can cause increased pressure on the brain (hydrocephalus), as well as other symptoms.
Common symptoms of ependymoma include headache (generally upon awakening in the morning), vomiting and fatigue (also upon awakening), sleepiness, irritability, and problems with walking. Infants may also have an enlarged head or swollen fontanelles ('soft spots' that occur before the bones in the head fuse).
In addition to a physical exam, medical history and neurological exam (which tests reflexes, muscle strength, eye and mouth movement, coordination and alertness), your child’s doctor may requests tests, including:
After all necessary tests are complete, the best treatment options can be determined.
Ependymomas can spread to other areas of the brain and spine. They can be classified as standard or anaplastic ependymoma. Both, however, are treated the same way. A third type, called myxopapillary ependymoma, tends to be much less serious than the other types.
Some therapies will treat the tumor while others are intended to address complications of the disease or side effects of the treatment. These treatments include:
There can be side effects related to the tumor itself or its treatment. Knowing what these side effects are can help your care team prepare for and, in some cases, prevent these symptoms from occurring.
A genetic test can explain why a child or young adult developed cancer and can help predict whether he is at risk for other conditions.