Fast Facts

Ependymoma Tumor Facts

The CERN Foundation is dedicated to helping you understand ependymoma. See below for a list of ependymoma facts about the disease.

Ependymoma tumor description

  • An ependymoma is a rare type of primary brain or spinal cord tumor
  • An ependymoma is a rare type of glial tumor; glial cells are the supportive cells of the brain
  • Primary brain and spinal cord tumors are those that start in the central nervous system (CNS)
  • These ependymoma tumors are classified and graded according to their appearance when viewed through the microscope
  • Ependymomas can be found in children and adults

Ependymoma tumor incidence

Ependymoma tumors account for three to six percent of CNS tumors

ependymoma facts  Incidence in children:

    • More common in children than adults
    • The third most common pediatric brain tumor
    • Over 90 percent occur in the brain

ependymoma facts  Incidence in adults:

    • Five percent of adult gliomas
    • Over 60 percent occur in the spinal cord

Staging and grading

  • Ependymoma may spread throughout the CNS
  • Spread outside of the CNS is rare
  • All can recur (regrow)
  • Graded on a scale of I to III (World Health Organization [WHO] Grading system)
  • Grade I
    • Myxopapillary ependymomas
    • The myxopapillary ependymoma generally presents in the spinal canal of adults
    • Both tumors tend to grow slowly, especially the subependymoma
  • Grade II and III
    • Classic ependymomas and ependymoma subtypes or variants(Grade II) and anaplastic ependymoma (Grade III)
    • These occur mainly in the brain
    • These tumors grow more quickly than Grade I tumors

Spinal cord and brain tumor symptoms

  • Symptoms depend on the tumor location. Any symptoms you have should be discussed with your doctor
  • Common brain tumor symptoms include:
    • Headache or pressure in the head
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Blurred vision
    • Weakness or numbness and tingling
  • Common spinal cord symptoms include:
    • Back pain
    • Weakness in the arms or legs
    • Numbness or tingling in the arms, legs or trunk
    • Problems going to the bathroom or controlling bowel or bladder function

Causes and treatment

  • The cause is not known. It rarely occurs in multiple family members, although does occur in people with Neurofibromatosis type 2.
  • Most people with ependymomas of any grade will undergo surgery to remove a tumor.
  • Depending on the tumor grade, location and how much of the tumor has been removed, radiation therapy is often given.
  • The role of chemotherapy has not been established, but research efforts like ours are dedicated to finding effective treatment at diagnosis and if the tumor recurs.