What is ependymoma?

Q: What is ependymoma?

A: An ependymoma is a primary brain tumour, which means that it is a tumour which starts in the brain and is not a growth that has spread there from a cancer elsewhere in the body.

There are a number of different types of primary brain tumour. These are named after the cells in the brain from which they develop. The cells which make up the supportive tissue in the brain are called glial cells and a tumour of these cells is called a glioma. Ependymomas are a rare type of glioma and develop from the ependymal cells. These are the cells that line the fluid filled chambers deep inside the brain (the ventricles) and also line the central canal of the spinal cord.

Ependymomas can develop in any part of the brain or spine but are most common in the front part of the brain ,the cerebrum. Ependymomas can spread from one part of the brain to another, or to the spinal cord, through the fluid passages in the brain and spine. They can occur at any age.

Ependymomas are graded by their appearance under the microscope into four grades. Grades I and II behave very similarly and are usually slow growing, they are often called low grade ependymomas. Grades III and IV behave more aggressively and are often celled high grade ependymomas.

Symptoms of Ependymoma

ependymoma-mriHeadaches, vomiting and fits are both common symptoms of ependymomas. Other symptoms vary depending on which part of the brain is affected. Possible problems are weakness of an arm or leg, difficulty in speech, problems with balance or visual disturbances.

After an initial examination the diagnosis is made by doing either a CAT scan or an MRI to show the size and position of the tumour, followed by an operation to take a sample of tissue for examination under the microscope (a biopsy).

Ependymoma Treatment

Wherever possible the treatment of ependymomas is surgery to completely remove the tumour. If surgery is not possible, or if there is some tumour left behind after surgery, the radiotherapy can be given. Sometimes chemotherapy is also given along with either surgery or radiotherapy, particularly in children. Overall the results of treatment with either surgery or radiotherapy are good with the majority of people being cured.

Leave a Reply