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Ependymoma in Children

What is an ependymoma?

Ependymoma in children is a rare type of tumor on the brain or spinal cord that most commonly occurs early in childhood. About 200 new cases are diagnosed a year, and about 30% of those are in children younger than 3. They occur from abnormal growth from cells that surround neurons. While the diagnosis may feel overwhelming, recovery rates are high and UTHealth Neurosciences doctors are well-equipped to provide advanced and personalized treatment. 

Causes of ependymoma in children

The cause of ependymoma remains unknown. Children with neurofibromatosis type 2, a rare inherited condition, 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 in children

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 also be delayed in reaching their developmental milestones.

Diagnosis

A neurologic 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 lumbar puncture 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. 

Treatment

A team of pediatric 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, radiation or chemotherapy will be used.

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 of the 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 call (713) 500-7363.

Once the tumor is removed, the patient will be closely monitored for recurrences.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

Our dedicated team uses advanced technology to accurately diagnose and treat neurological diseases and conditions impacting babies and children. We work in multidisciplinary teams of specialists and pediatric neurosurgeons who share insights, leading to better treatment decision-making and outcomes, as well as lower costs and time savings. Throughout treatment, we will work closely with the doctor who referred your family to ensure a smooth transition back to your child’s regular care. While your family is with us, they will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.


Contact Us

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.


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