What Is Ependymoma of the Spinal Cord?Ependymoma of the spinal cord is a rare type of high-grade cancer that originates from the ependyma cells of the brain and spinal cord, ependymal cells are the cells that line the cavities and ventricles of the brain and spinal cord where cerebrospinal fluid is produced and stored. These tumours develop in the brain of children and the spinal cord of adults. Ependymoma of the spinal cord is an intramedullary tumour i.e arise within the substance of the spinal cord. These tumours can develop in any part of the spinal cord i.e they can affect the cervical (neck), Thoracic (upper back, chest region of spinal cord) and lumbar (lower back) regions of the spinal cord. A few types of ependymomas can originate from the lower back and sacral (2nd last part of the spinal cord, base of the spinal cord above the tail bone)region of the spinal cord.
Disease CausesThere is no well-known cause; however, various genetic mutations are associated with the development of spinal cord ependymoma. A strong association has been observed between the condition known as neurofibromatosis type 1 and the development of spinal cord ependymoma. No association of environmental factors in the development of ependymoma of the spinal cord was observed. The mean age for the occurrence of the disease is 39 years. It is equally common in both males and females.
Signs and SymptomsSigns and symptoms may vary based on the site, size, and extent of the tumour. The patient may suffer from the following signs and symptoms. These are
- If the tumour develops in the neck region of the spinal cord the patient may suffer from pain in the neck, burning and prickling sensation in the neck, weakness, and wasting of the neck muscles.
- Skin’s abdominal senses (impulses) won’t function if a tumour grows in the vertebrae that make up the thoracic (chest) region of the spinal cord.
- If the tumour develops in the lower region of the spinal cord the patient may suffer from pain in the back, and legs.
DiagnosisThe following diagnostic tests and procedures can be used to make a diagnosis. These are;
- Imaging techniques like Chest X-ray, CT-scan, MRI, and PET scan to see the site, size, and extent of the tumour.
- Tumour biopsy (tumour biopsy to remove a small sample of tissue for histopathological examination)
- USG-guided fine needle aspiration cytology