Ependymomas are the most common type of glioma found in children and are usually low grade - although grade three anaplastic ependymomas are not uncommon.
Ependymomas are the third most common type childhood brain tumour and most often found in the 'posterior fossa' which is a small space in the lower part of the skull, containing the hindbrain.
Surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible is the first line of treatment for ependymomas. After surgery, the doctor will create a treatment plan consisting of radiotherapy or a mix of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, depending on how much of the tumour was removed, the child's age and whether the disease has spread.
Radiotherapy uses controlled doses of high-energy radiation beams to destroy tumour cells whilst causing as little damage as possible to surrounding cells.
Radiotherapy may be used where surgery isn't possible or to kill any remaining ependymoma cells after surgery. It can also be used to prevent a tumour from returning or to slow down its growth.
While studies have shown that radiotherapy can be effective in managing ependymomas, there are short- and long-term risks associated with treating children with radiation, especially those younger than three years old.
Chemotherapy involves taking drugs that have been developed to kill tumour cells. They are either taken as a pill or using an injection or drip. The treatment cycle is usually spread over a set period of time.
There is ongoing research on the possible effects of different combinations of chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy in treating childhood ependymomas. However, clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of individual chemotherapy drugs for treating childhood ependymomas have been mixed. Some drugs appear ineffective in targeting ependymomas and others reporting effectiveness in a limited percentage of cases.
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