What is ependymoma?
An ependymoma is a rare type of tumor on the brain or spinal cord that most commonly occurs in childhood. About 200 new cases are diagnosed per year, and about 30% of those are in children younger than 3. While the diagnosis may feel overwhelming, recovery rates are high and UTHealth Neurosciences doctors are well-equipped to provide advanced and personalized treatment.
What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences
At UTHealth Neurosciences, our dedicated team uses the latest technology to accurately diagnose and treat each patient. We work in multidisciplinary teams of specialists who share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.
Causes of ependymoma
The cause of ependymoma remains unknown. Children with neurofibromatosis type 2 are at increased risk. These tumors are more common in the back part of the brain for pediatric patients and on the spinal cord for adult patients.
Signs of ependymoma
The symptoms might vary depending on the location of the tumor. These types of tumors tend to grow slowly over years. They can cause headaches, nausea, blurred vision, and balance problems.
Ependymoma might also cause confusion, trouble urinating, jerky eye movements, weakness in the legs, or stiffness in the back. Some symptoms, including pain, are triggered by the tumor pressing on part of the central nervous system.
An infant with ependymoma might have a larger head. Children with ependymoma might be delayed in reaching their developmental milestones.
A neurological exam will be conducted to test coordination, reflexes, and muscle control. An MRI will be performed to generate pictures of the brain and spinal cord to help confirm a diagnosis. The doctor may also conduct a biopsy or spinal tap to test cerebrospinal fluid for protein or glucose levels that may indicate a tumor. They will use this information to determine the stage and grade of the tumor.
A team of oncologists, neurosurgeons, and neurologists will develop a comprehensive treatment plan. In many cases, neurosurgeons will first attempt to remove as much of the tumor as possible without harming the surrounding tissue. If any tumor remains, the team will consider radiation or chemotherapy. The patient will then be closely monitored for recurrences.
Our doctors also are involved in a new brain tumor trial that uses cutting-edge treatment to infuse a chemotherapy agent directly into the fourth ventricle heart. Qualified participants include patients ages 1 to 21 years old with recurrent ependymoma that originated in the posterior fossa of the brain. The agent being infused, 5-AZA, has been shown to effectively kill ependymoma cells in the laboratory. This study is listed at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT # 02940483, under “Brain Tumor Recurrent.” If you would like additional information about this study, please contact Bangning Yu, M.D., Ph.D., by email at Bangning.Yu@uth.tmc.edu or by phone at (713) 500-7363.
At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.