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Ependymoma is more common in children than adults, occurring in children most frequently under age 5. Types of ependymoma can be cancerous but typically doesn’t spread, or metastasize, to other areas of the body.

Ependymoma develops in the brain cells that make cerebrospinal fluid. These ependymal cells are found throughout the ventricles and passageways in the brain and spinal cord. When they grow abnormally, they can cause many symptoms depending on where the mass is located.

The five-year survival rate for ependymoma in childhood is about 75%, according to the American Cancer Society. That means 75 out of 100 children with ependymoma survive at least five years. Many go on to live longer and many are cured, meaning no traces of cancer remain.

The neuroscience and oncology specialists with the Norton Children’s Brain & Spinal Tumor Program are working to improve life expectancy for kids with brain tumors. They stay at the forefront of research into new treatments, conduct clinical trials of new drugs and therapies, and publish their findings in prestigious medical journals so others can benefit from their discoveries.

The Brain & Spinal Tumor Program is a collaboration of Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute and Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, both affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. Bringing together specialists with different viewpoints, experiences and training means patients benefit from multiple opinions and get customized treatment plans.

Types of Ependymomas

  • Subependymoma – Rare in children, this benign tumor grows in the brain’s ventricle walls and into the spaces that are bathed in spinal fluid. Symptoms include headaches and confusion as the tumor puts pressure on surrounding structures and spinal fluid flow is impeded.
  • Myxopapillary ependymoma – This slow-growing, often benign, tumor tends to grow in the lower part of the spinal column. Symptoms depend on the size and location of the tumor and may include nausea, vomiting, headache, pain, numbness, and bowel or bladder symptoms. They can grow back at their original location, especially in patients diagnosed in childhood.
  • Grade 3 ependymomas are cancerous and fast-growing. These most often occur in the brain but also can occur in the spinal cord. Anaplastic ependymomas are a subtype.
  • RELA fusion-positive ependymomas are rare and have a poor prognosis. The tumor is characterized by a genetic anomaly called a RELA fusion.
  • Supratentorial ependymomas are located in the top part of the brain. They can cause nausea, vomiting and headaches from increased pressure within the brain, as well as weakness and vision issues. Supratentorial ependymomas can be cured by surgery alone in some cases.
  • Infratentorial ependymomas occur in the back of the brain. They can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, and trouble with coordination.

What to Expect From Norton Children’s Brain & Spinal Tumor Program 

  • If your child has just been diagnosed, we offer same-day and next business day appointments for urgent referrals.
  • Each child’s case is reviewed by a board of specialists who discuss possible treatment plans, so the patient benefits from a broad array of expertise, experience, training and research.
  • Neurologists, oncologists and other specialists see patients at the same location, making travel easier for families because appointments are scheduled for the same day.
  • Board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at the forefront of new treatment advances work to attack tumors while protecting healthy brain and spinal tissue.
  • Norton Children’s Hospital is part of an elite group of pediatric hospitals that perform MRI-guided laser ablation surgery using the minimally invasive Visualase system to destroy diseased tissue, including deep brain tumors.
  • Support groups, social workers, psychiatrists, school liaison specialists and child life specialists identify and address the needs of patients and their families during and after medical treatment.
  • We help prepare for the transition back to school, determine appropriate educational placement and identify any additional services through a neuropsychologist evaluation.
  • Integrated rehabilitation by physical and occupational therapists begins as early as possible during treatment to give patients the greatest benefit.
  • Communicate with your provider, manage appointments, refill prescriptions and more anytime from a computer or mobile device with a free Norton MyChart account.

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