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UR Medicine



For more information, please visit our Comprehensive Brain & Spinal Tumor site

What do I have?

Ependymomas are a type of glioma that develops from ependymal cells. Ependymal cells are found in the lining of the ventricles and spinal cord. These tumors are more common in children than adults. In children, they are often found in the cerebellum, the brain’s coordination center. In adults, they are often found in the spinal cord.

What does it do?

Ependymal cells line the fluid filled spaces of our brain and spinal cord. Because of its location, the tumor often blocks the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. This can cause fluid to build up and cause increase pressure in the brain and spinal cord. The most common symptoms associated with ependymomas are headache, back pain, numbness, weakness and sometimes double vision. If the pressure becomes too high, this can cause nausea and vomiting as well as decreased consciousness.

How long have I had it?

No one can know for sure how long you may have had an ependymoma. Like other gliomas, they can be slow growing or fast growing.

Can it be cured?

Ependymomas are generally slower growing than other gliomas. Most ependymomas are myxopapillary ependymomas that occur in the lowest portion of the spinal column. These tumors are generally less aggressive, although once treated they can grow back. For some ependymomas, surgery may be the only treatment you need. Others may need to be treated with radiation or possibly chemotherapy. If the tumor grows back, it usually becomes more aggressive.

What caused it?

No one knows for sure what causes ependymomas. We do know that exposure to radiation may increase the chances of developing tumors in general. While scientists have looked at other possible causes such as aspartame (NutraSweet®), cell phones and power lines, no on has been able to show that any of these are clear causes of ependymomas.

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