What is Ependymoma?
Ependymoma is a rare type pf tumor that grows in the brain or spinal cord. These tumors occur more often in children than adults.
Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care of people with cancer and the diagnosis, management and treatment of ependymomas. Our 24/7 inpatient neurology and neurosurgery services, as well as our outpatient and Home Health physical, occupational, cognitive and speech therapy services are available to help treat people with ependymomas. In addition, we have the region’s only advanced 3Tesla MRI, MRI spectroscopy and functional MRI technology to accurately diagnose all manner of neurologic disease, including ependymoma.
You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of ependymoma depend upon where in the brain or spine the tumor is located. Common symptoms for ependymoma in the brain include:
- Balance and walking problems
- Headache that won’t go away
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
- Speech and memory problems
- Vision problems
Common symptoms for ependymoma in the spine include:
- Arm or leg weakness or tingling
- Back pain that does not go away
- Problems controlling bowels and bladder
To determine if someone has ependymoma, we use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:
Biopsy: A physician or surgeon can use a fine needle to draw a small amount of tissue, or make a small incision to remove a sample of the tissue, from the tumor. The sample is studied under a microscope to look for cancer or other identifying cells.
Computerized tomography (CT) scan: This test uses X-rays and computers to create images of the brain and spine. Sometimes, a patient will be injected with contrast dye to make abnormalities easier to see.
Cerebrospinal fluid test: In this test, the spine is numbed and a thin needle is used to collect a small sample of spinal fluid to look for cancer cells.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A large magnet, radio waves and a computer are used to produce detailed pictures of the spine and brain.
The exact cause of ependymoma is unknown. They are most likely due to genetic mutations.
No known behavioral or lifestyle factors seem to play a role in the development of ependymoma.
There is no known way to prevent ependymoma.
The age of the person and the treatment used for the ependymoma contribute to the outcome of recovery. Early diagnosis and treatment lead to a better outcome.
Treatment and Recovery
Treatment of ependymoma may include surgery and non-surgical treatments. In some patients, surgery alone or surgery with radiation may cure ependymoma. In other patients, ependymoma may recur and require further treatment.
Surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible is typically prescribed. New minimally invasive and microsurgical techniques allow surgeons to remove previously inaccessible tumors and perform surgeries with fewer side effects. Depending on the procedure, recovery may take weeks to months and some degree of temporary or permanent nerve damage may occur.
Chemotherapy uses special drugs designed to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered as a pill or injected into the bloodstream and may be given before surgery to shrink a tumor, after surgery to kill remaining cancer cells and as a means of reducing symptoms.
This treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. The radiation is directed specifically to the spine or brain. Most often, radiation treatments are given five days a week for several weeks.
While treatment of ependymoma is generally safe and results in few or no side effects, surgery or radiation therapy can result in temporary or permanent neurologic problems with the brain or spinal cord. These problems may include:
- Speech or memory problems
- Vision changes
- Weakness or balance problems
- Learning and growth problems
Next Steps with MyChart
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