Ependymomas are a type of brain tumor with symptoms that can include severe headaches, sensory and cognitive problems.
What is an Ependymoma?
Ependymomas are a type of glial brain tumor that occurs from ependymal cells within the central nervous system. Ependymal cells line passageways in the brain. This is the place where cerebrospinal fluid is produced and stored. Ependymomas are classified according to the region they affect. Supratentorial ependymomas affect the cerebral hemispheres, while infratentorial ependymomas affect the back of the brain.
These tumors can develop from cells that are found in the hollow spaces at the bottom of the brain and the spinal canal. They can also develop the fluid-filled spaces in the center of the brain, called ventricles. If they develop in the ventricles, ependymomas may cause a blockage leading to water in the brain, or hydrocephalus, which may extend into the spinal cord. Ependymomas are usually localized to one area of the brain and can be either slow or fast growing.
What causes Ependymomas?
A tumor is an abnormal growth caused by abnormal cell multiplication that does not serve any physiological function. Cell division is regulated by the tumor suppressor genes. These genes also help to repair any damage caused to the DNA. Tumor suppressor genes are constantly at war against the cancer-causing genes called oncogenes. When tumor suppressor genes fail to function properly due to mutations that affect protein encoding, unregulated cell division and growth can occur and cause the development of a tumor.
The body's natural defense system should optimally detect the abnormal cells and kill them. But tumors may produce substances that obstruct the immune system from recognizing the abnormality of tumor cells and eventually the tumor cells may overpower all internal and external checks to their growth.
Certain types of radiation exposure and genetic disorders have been linked with tumor growth. Although some environmental factors are suspected of contributing to the development of tumors, doctors do not know many of the risk factors of many types of tumors yet. They affect children as well as adult men and women. Their occurrence peaks at the age of 5 and again at the age of 34.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms vary depending on the size and location of the tumor. Some symptoms that may suggest the development of an ependymomas include headaches, mobility issues, fatigue, nausea, cognitive changes, weakness, or issues with coordination.
This condition may be diagnosed after a review of your medical history and a physical and neurological exam. Your doctor will use a biopsy or imaging studies like an MRI or CT scan in order to confirm the diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.
Treatment options depend on the location and grade of ependymoma, as well as the age and health of the patient. Treatment of an ependymoma may include one or a combination of treatments, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.