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What is an ependymoma?

Ependymomas are the type of glioma (a brain tumour that develops from a glial cell) most commonly found in children and the third most common type of childhood brain tumour.

Around 60-70% of childhood ependymomas are located in the 'posterior fossa' which is a small space in the lower part of the skull, containing the hindbrain. They develop from ependymal cells that produce two-thirds of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that surrounds, protects and nourishes the brain.

While ependyomas 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.

Types of ependymoma

Although most ependymoma are low grade tumours, they can also be faster-growing high grade tumours.

Myxopapillary ependymomas 

These grade one ependymomas are relatively uncommon in children and tend to occur in the spinal column, rather than the brain.

Subependymomas

Also relatively uncommon in children, these are grade one tumours that tend to occur near ventricles in the brain.

Ependymomas

Ependymomas are grade two tumours and the most common type of ependymal tumour. They usually appear close to, or within, the ventricular system in the posterior fossa.

Anaplastic Ependymoma

Anaplastic ependymomas are grade three tumours and are the fastest growing type of ependymal tumour. They also commonly originate in the posterior fossa.

What are the symptoms of an ependymoma?

Depending on where 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).

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