Ependynoma is a mass that originates in the ependyma, the tissue of the central nervous system. In children, the mass is usually found in the cranium; in adults, the spine. In rare cases, the mass can develop in the pelvis. About 1 in 11 childhood brain tumors are ependynomas.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common symptoms of this condition are:
- Severe headache
- Visual loss or difficulty distinguishing colors
- Uncontrollable twitching
- Bilateral Babinski sign (damaged reflexes)
Diagnosis & Treatment
A doctor may conduct any of the following exams on children to determine if the tumor is an ependynoma:
- Physical exam
- Neurological exam: The doctor will ask the child a series of questions to determine their brain, nerve, and spine function, which will show their coordination, mental status, ability to walk normally, and how well the patient’s muscles, senses, and reflexes are functioning.
- CT/CAT scan: A CT scan connected to an x-ray machine takes a series of pictures of the body’s internal organs from various angles. The patient may need to swallow a dye that will allow certain organs to appear on the screen more clearly.
- MRI with gadolinium: An MRI uses magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of certain areas of the brain and spinal cord. A substance called gadolinium is injected into the patient’s vein; this substance gathers around the cancer cells and makes them look brighter in the pictures.
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap): A sample of cerebrospinal fluid is collected and examined for cancer cells.
If a child or adult is thought to have a brain tumor, the doctor will remove a small tissue sample from the mass (called a biopsy) and examine it under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
If they are found, the doctor will remove as much of the mass as is safely possible during the same procedure. Afterward, the patient may receive an MRI to see how much of the mass is left.
Several factors determine the patient’s prognosis, including the tumor’s stage and location, and whether the tumor is recurring.