Ependymomas are a type of brain cancer which begins in the ependyma, which is a thin lining of tissue found in the brain and spinal cord. Ependymoma is extremely rare, making up about 2% of all brain cancer cases. Ependymoma can occur at any age, but is more common in children. When adults suffer from ependymoma, it usually forms in the spinal cord.
Ependymomas can spread via the fluid that surrounds the brain. This can lead to the cancer affecting other areas of the brain. For this reason, it is important that the cancer is diagnosed quickly so that treatment can reduce the risk of this happening.
Ependymomas can be low-grade (slow growing) or high-grade (fast growing). Upon examination, the appearance of these cells may not be accurate in determining the grade of the cancer. This makes it difficult for doctors to correctly determine the cancer’s progress in patients.
There are several common symptoms associated with ependymoma. If you notice one or more of these symptoms, we recommend that you see a doctor as soon as possible. An early diagnosis can prevent the cancer from spreading and the symptoms worsening over time.
Below are some of the most common symptoms associated with Ependymoma:
- Severe headaches – You may experience strong headaches if you suffer from Ependymoma.
- Nausea – Nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting have been linked with Ependymoma.
- Seizures – Ependymoma can cause seizures to occur. This sign is most common in children/younger adults.
- Weakness in parts of the body – Depending on where the tumour is growing, it can cause weakness in parts of the body that are linked to affected nerves.
- Loss of vision – Papilledema is a condition where increased pressure in the brain causes the optic nerve(s) to swell, affecting vision. Sufferers of Ependymoma may also experience Papilledema.
Following one or more blood tests, your doctor will want to diagnose your illness so that treatment can begin. Below are some of the most common techniques used to diagnose Ependymoma:
- CT or MRI scan – Your doctor may request a scan of your brain, which allows doctors to identify likely tumours. Sometimes, CT and MRI scans are inconclusive, requiring a second method for diagnosing your illness.
- Biopsy – A biopsy is when a piece of tissue from the suspected area is removed. Doctors then examine this tissue to determine if it is malignant (caused by cancer).
- Lumbar puncture – During a lumbar puncture, a doctor will use a needle to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid from your spine. This is the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. A doctor will then examine this sample for irregularities that suggest Ependymoma.
There are several available treatments for Ependymoma. Each treatment comes with its own risks and side effects. For this reason, it is important to weigh up your options and decide on the type of treatment that is best for you. Sometimes, the nature of a tumour may restrict your available treatment options. For example, tumours may be inoperable.
Below are some of the most common forms of treatment for Ependymoma:
During a surgery, brain surgeons (neurosurgeons) will attempt to remove as much of the Ependymoma as possible. Their aim is to remove all traces of the tumour in order to prevent it from growing back.
Due to the risks associated with brain surgery, it is not recommended for all sufferers of Ependymoma. This is because sometimes the Ependymoma is located near sensitive brain tissue or spinal cord tissue. If your tumour is inoperable, a doctor will recommend a different method of treatment.
Radiation therapy used powerful radiation to target and destroy cancer cells. It is often used as an alternative to surgery for Ependymoma. It is also used post-surgery to reduce the risk of a tumour growing back.
There are several side effects associated with radiation therapy. These include:
- Irritated, itchy or blistering skin
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Increased risk of cancer in the future
During chemotherapy, doctors will use drugs to destroy cancer cells or prevent them from growing. These drugs are either ingested or given intravenously (via a drip). Chemotherapy consists of several sessions, which are spread out over a period of time determined by your doctor.
Chemotherapy comes with several side effects, which include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of hair
- Increased risk of infection
- Extreme fatigue
What support can we give for Ependymoma?
Ependymoma is a rare cancer, meaning it is not as well known as other forms of cancer. Without a Ribbon is an Australian organisation that provides support for individuals who suffer from rare cancers. We provide a designated platform for Warriors to obtain information specific to their Rare Cancer. We also provide annual opportunities for our Warriors to meet and learn from each other.
If you suffer from a rare cancer such as Ependymoma, we can help and support you through your journey thanks to the generous donations we receive. Click the link below to sign up and become a Warrior today!
You can help us with your donation:
Without a Ribbon is a charity that works hard to aid those who suffer from rare cancers. You can help our cause in a variety of ways:
Donations – Without a Ribbon is grateful for every donation received. Giving to Without a Ribbon helps us to provide ongoing support, organise the annual gathering and subsidise the costs of our Warriors attending these conferences.
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