Ependymoma is a tumor that can form in both the spinal cord and the brain. Although it has a high survival rate, treatment usually requires various interventions. We explain it to you.
Ependymoma is a type of tumor that forms in the central nervous system. It can develop in both the brain and the spinal cord. It is more common in young children than in adults; Nevertheless, it is possible for it to arise at any age. Its presence causes obstruction of the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid.
The problem is that many people can be asymptomatic for a long time or express very non-specific symptoms. Therefore, diagnosis is often delayed. Fortunately, there are currently several treatments available for its outlook. We tell you all the details in the following space.
What is an ependymoma?
Ependymoma is a primary tumor that can begin in the brain or spinal cord (central nervous system). It does not come from any other part of the body. an article shared on National Center for Biotechnology Information explain what Develops from glial cells.
To be more precise, it comes from the ependymal cells that line the ventricles of the brain and the ependymal canal of the spinal cord. The disease constitutes approximately 5% of intracranial gliomas in adults and up to 10% of childhood central nervous system tumors.
Ependymal cells are responsible for the production of cerebrospinal fluid at the level of the cerebral ventricles. In the rest of the central nervous system, they facilitate the movement of this fluid. This in itself plays an important role in protecting this system.
An ependymoma occurs when these cells grow out of control, resulting in a tumor. It is usually soft, gray or reddish in color. And while it’s rare, it can affect people of any age. The main difference between children and adults is the location.
- In children, this cancer usually affects the lower half of the brain.
- However, it is more common for the spinal cord to be affected in adults.
Types and grades of ependymoma
Ependymomas can be classified into different types and grades. The types differ from each other based on their location in the brain or inside the spinal column. Besides, The degrees correspond to the atypia that cells are present.
That is, cancer cells that differ little from normal cells make up a low-grade tumor. However, those made by very few cells, similar to healthy cells, will be higher grade.
grade I ependymoma
Grade I ependymomas are cells that grow slowly. Within this group we find the types of subependymoma and myxopapillary ependymoma. Both types are more common in adults than in children.
- Subependymomas are those that develop near the cerebral ventricles.
- Myxopapillary appears in the spinal cord. In fact, it usually affects the lower part of it.
grade II tumor
Grade II tumors are more common than those above. They are rapidly growing and include many subtypes. For example, they include papillary and cellular ependymomas.
grade III ependymomas
Grade III ependymomas are the most aggressive. The cells are very abnormal and develop very rapidly. It is also called ‘anaplastic ependymoma’. It is more common for them to develop within the skull, either in the brain or in the brainstem.
They have a greater ability to spread, as they can do so through the cerebrospinal fluid. Thus, Other tumor foci may appear in the brain or spinal cord., However, they do not usually metastasize to other organs.
what are your symptoms?
Ependymoma occurs in various parts of the central nervous system. Also it can affect people of any age. All these factors mean that the symptoms are highly variable. In fact, as we mentioned in the introduction, some people have hardly any symptoms at all.
One of the most frequent symptoms is headache. Tumors can cause increased intracranial pressure, so nausea, vomiting and malaise are also common. Some patients experience blurred vision or vision loss.
even, loss of balance, difficulty walking, and seizures may occur, When ependymoma affects the spinal cord, it is common to have weakness and tingling in the extremities. There may also be pain in the neck.
Causes and Risk Factors
As with any other tumor, ependymoma appears because cells begin to grow uncontrollably. This is because of mutations in the DNA of these cells. However, it is unknown why this happens.
Although it has been observed People with neurofibromatosis type 2 are at higher risk Suffering from this disease. It is a genetic disorder that favors the formation of tumors in the nervous system.
How is an ependymoma diagnosed?
The diagnosis of ependymoma is complicated and requires some complementary tests. Often, the neurologist will perform a complete neurological exam to assess the patient’s senses, coordination, reflexes, and cranial nerves.
Through the said examination and knowledge of the symptoms, it is possible to guide the presence or absence of tumor and its location. Imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan are usually done at this time.
As explained by experts Mayo ClinicThese tests are needed to look for tumors. In some cases a lumbar puncture is also performed. This is a test in which the space between the vertebrae is punctured to remove the cerebrospinal fluid.
The fluid is analyzed in a laboratory to determine whether there are tumor cells or changes that indicate their presence. The tumor is also usually analyzed to see what the cells that make it up are like.
Fortunately, there are various ways of treating this disease. In fact, as pointed out in a publication by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Survival is high. The five-year survival rate is thought to be between 70 and 85%.
The first therapeutic option is surgery. The goal is to remove the entire tumor or reduce its size as much as possible. The problem is that it is usually found in delicate areas where it is difficult to intervene. Therefore, it is not always possible to remove the entire tumor.
Therefore, many patients require other treatments to kill residual cancer cells. One of them is radiation therapy. There are different methods such as modulated intensity or proton therapy.
They are techniques that try to focus radiation on the tumor area and minimize damage to healthy tissue. Radiation therapy may be helpful in preventing recurrence of ependymoma. Radiosurgery is also usedIn which radiation is focused on specific points in the tumor.
Chemotherapy is one of the treatment links. However, it is not very effective. This option is usually reserved for cases in which both surgery and radiation therapy have failed.
What is there to remember?
Ependymoma is a tumor that develops from certain glial cells. These cells are found in both the brain and the spinal cord. Therefore, it is possible that this tumor may appear anywhere in both regions.
Although it is considered a rare type of cancerTo identify it, it is important to know its possible symptoms. The sooner a diagnosis can be made, the more likely that treatment will be effective.
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