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Ependymoma

Ependymoma is the third most common type childhood brain tumour and is the type of glioma most commonly found in children.

While ependymomas can develop in people of any age, the average age of diagnosis is five years old and at least a quarter of diagnoses happen before the age of two. 

Most childhood ependymomas are found in the hindbrain, which is sometimes called the posterior fossa. This is the lower part of the brain which controls functions, such as balance and movement, and vital functions, such as breathing and blood pressure.

What is an ependymoma?

Ependymomas are a type of brain tumour that are formed from a type of cell in the brain called an ependymal cell. Ependymal cells are found lining the ventricles of the brain (the fluid–filled spaces in and around the brain) and their job is to produce cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Ependymal cells belong to a larger family of cells called glial cells. This is why your child’s ependymoma may sometimes be referred to as a glioma, which is the name for a tumour arising from glial cells.

Are there different types of ependymoma?

There are four different types of ependymoma, so you might hear your child’s doctor call the brain tumour by a more specific name. The different types are:

  • Myxopapillary Ependymomas (grade 1)

This type of ependymoma is relatively uncommon in children and develops more often in the lower part of the spinal column rather than the brain.

  • Subependymomas (grade 1)

Subependymomas are also relatively uncommon in children and appear most often near a ventricle.

  • Ependymomas (grade 2)

Ependymomas are the most common type of ependymal tumour and usually appear close to, or in, a ventricle in the hindbrain.

  • Anaplastic Ependymoma (grade 3)

Anaplastic ependymomas are the fastest growing type of ependymal tumour and also commonly grow in the hindbrain.

What are the symptoms of an ependymomas?

Most child ependymomas develop along the ventricle in the hindbrain known as the fourth ventricle. Depending on where in the fourth ventricle the tumour is located, your child might have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Their head seeming to be twisted or tilted (known as torticollis or wry neck)
  • Loss of balance (known as ataxia)
  • Problems speaking (known as dysarthria)
  • Difficulty swallowing (known as dysphagia)
  • Making overly clumsy movements (known as dysmetria).

They may also experience some of the general symptoms of childhood brain tumours.

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