Ependymoma is a type of brain tumor and while it is rare in adults, accounting for 2-3% of brain tumors, ependymoma is mainly found in children and accounts for around 5% of all childhood brain cancers (American Cancer Society [ACS], 2014, January 31; American Brain Tumor Association [ABTA], n.d.). The survival rate of patients with ependymoma who have survived five years after their tumor is detected is 75% Tumors occur when cells grow to excess and form a mass. While some tumors are benign, meaning that they are harmless, others are malignant, or cancerous. Ependymoma is a malignant cancerous brain tumor (“American Society of Clinical Oncology [ASCO]– Childhood,” n.d.). The tumor appears as soft, grey or red tumors and could comprise of cysts or mineral calcifications.
The name of a brain tumor derives from the cells where it forms. Ependymoma starts in the ependymal cells. The ependymal cells line the ventricles in the brain and central canal of the spinal cord (ABTA, n.d.). These two areas, the brain and the spine, make up the central nervous system that controls many significant functions like speech, thought, and physical movement. Ependymoma is in a category of brain tumors called gliomas. A glioma grows from glial cells, a supportive cell found in the brain (ASCO, n.d.).
Since ependymoma is a tumor of the brain, it has different effects based on its location. For example, if there was a tumor in the temporal lobe, then coordination, speech and memory may be affected. If the tumor were to grow in the parietal lobe; cognition and information would be affected; in the cerebellum the tumor would affect movement and balance. If the tumor is located in the spine, then it could lead to neck or back pain or sometimes loss of bladder control and weakness in the limbs. Ependymomas can occur in any area of the brain or spine, but most commonly are found in the cerebrum. The cerebrum is the largest portion of the brain and controls motor skills and speech (ASCO, n.d.).
The cause of ependymoma is not known and researchers do not know the reason that it affects children, or why it affects some children and not others. Ependymomas are not caused by lifestyle, diet, or medicines taken in by the child or the mother during pregnancy. In rare cases, high doses of radiation can cause ependymoma and other tumors. (Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children [GOSH], 2007) Although some genetic mutations have been associated with ependymomas, a connection between them has not been established. (Bruce, Fusco, Feldstein, & Kennedy, 2013)
When testing for ependymoma, a series of procedures are performed. Firstly, the doctor will do a physical exam, including neurologic function tests, which check reflexes, eye and mouth movement, muscle strength, and coordination and alertness (Boston Children’s Hospital, n.d.). Then they will get a Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan). A CT will show a three dimensional image of the...