As with many primary malignant brain tumors, the cause of ependymomas is unknown. It is known, however, that they result from Ependymal cells which line the ventricles of the brain and the midpoint of the spinal cord.
These specific brain tumors are separated into four major categories based on three grades:
- Subependymomas (Grade I): Tumors are slow-growing in nature
- Myxopapillary ependymomas (Grade I): This type of ependymoma are also slow-growing
- Ependymomas (Grade II): This type is the most common of the ependymal tumors and can be separated into the following subgroups: cellular ependymomas, papillary ependymomas, clear cell ependymomas and tancytic ependymomas
- Anaplastic ependymomas (Grade III): Ependymomas of this type are fast-growing tumors
Where Do These Tumors Develop?
Ependymomas do not form in set-specific locations. The varying subtypes will appear throughout the brain and spinal column. Usually, the most common type (Grade II) form near, within or along a ventricle. Specific subtypes are more likely to arise in particular areas, for example:
- Subependymomas commonly form close to a ventricle
- Myxopapillary ependymomas will likely be found in the lower spinal column
- Anaplastic ependymomas typically form near the rear base of the skull in adults and children
Rarely is an ependymoma found in the spinal cord.
Symptoms and Occurrence
Location and tumor size will dictate the symptoms associated with the particular brain condition. An enlarged skull in infants is usually the first indicator. As the tumor increases in size, symptoms such as irritability, sleeplessness and vomiting may occur. Older children and adults will commonly experience nausea, vomiting and headaches.
Ependymomas account for 2-3% of primary brain tumors in adults, a relatively rare occurrence. On the other hand, they hold the sixth spot amongst most common brain tumors in children. Those under the age of three account for 30% of pediatric ependymomas.
Various Treatment Methods
Tumor resection is the first step in treatment. The goal is to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Even in cases when the growth has been completely removed through surgery, radiation has been recommended. Radiation treatment is rarely done on young children as it may affect the developing brain. Radiation after surgery is typically recommended for older children and adults to target tumor areas which could not be completely removed.
Chemotherapy may be used to treat recurring tumors which appear after radiation treatment. It is also used in infants and young children instead of radiation.
Intracranial Brain Tumors Require Professional Care
Our practice in New Jersey is equipped with a neurosurgery team skilled and experienced in tumor resection procedures. We guide patients through management of the condition every step of the way. Diagnosis of a primary malignant brain tumor requires swift action, so contact us at 908-219-9673.