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Childhood Ependymoma Treatment

General Information About Childhood Ependymoma

Childhood ependymoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.

The brain controls vital functions such as memory and learning, the senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch), and emotion. The spinal cord is made up of bundles of nerve fibers that connect the brain with nerves in most parts of the body.

About 1 in 11 childhood brain tumors are ependymomas. Although cancer is rare in children, brain tumors are the most common type of childhood cancer other than leukemia and lymphoma.

This summary refers to the treatment of primary brain tumors (tumors that begin in the brain). Treatment of metastatic brain tumors, which are tumors formed by cancer cells that begin in other parts of the body and spread to the brain, is not discussed in this summary.

There are many different types of brain tumors. Brain tumors can occur in both children and adults; however, treatment for children may be different than treatment for adults. See the following PDQ summaries for more information:

The central nervous system controls many important body functions.

Ependymomas most commonly form in these parts of the central nervous system (CNS):


Anatomy of the brain, showing the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, and other parts of the brain.
Anatomy of the brain, showing the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, and other parts of the brain.

Anatomy of the inside of the brain, showing the pineal and pituitary glands, optic nerve, ventricles (with cerebrospinal fluid shown in blue), and other parts of the brain.
Anatomy of the inside of the brain, showing the pineal and pituitary glands, optic nerve, ventricles (with cerebrospinal fluid shown in blue), and other parts of the brain.

The cause of most childhood brain tumors is unknown.

The symptoms of childhood ependymoma vary and often depend on the child’s age and where the tumor is located.

The following symptoms and others may be caused by childhood ependymoma. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of these problems occur:

Tests that examine the brain and spinal cord are used to detect (find) childhood ependymoma.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

Childhood ependymoma is diagnosed and removed in surgery.

If a brain tumor is suspected, a biopsy is done by removing part of the skull and using a needle to remove a sample of the brain tissue. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, the doctor will remove as much tumor as safely possible during the same surgery. An MRI may be done after the tumor is removed to find out how much tumor remains.

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on: