Ependymoma – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


The term ependymoma describes a relatively rare tumor that develops in the central nervous system. The ependymoma is one of the solid tumors that occur due to cell degeneration in the brain or in the spinal cord.

What is an ependymoma?

Since there are different types of ependymomas (all of which are malignant), some tumors can grow more quickly, while others can grow more slowly.

Due to the fact that there is only limited space in the skull for growing tissue, the ependymoma can have fatal consequences in the course of the disease, since vital brain regions are affected.

Just ten percent of all tumors that occur in the central nervous system are ependymomas, so that the type of tumor can be classified as relatively rare. Children and young people are primarily affected.


So far, there are no exact causes or mechanisms of formation of why an ependymoma forms. Sometimes, however, doctors have come to the conclusion that radiation treatments in childhood – for example in the case of malignant eye tumors or leukemia – can definitely promote the development of an ependymoma.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The symptoms and signs depend on the location and spread of the tumor . Physicians distinguish between general and local or non-specific and specific signs. General symptoms occur regardless of location and do not necessarily have anything to do with the ependymoma.

Classic, non-specific symptoms include back pain or headaches , loss of appetite , weight loss , dizziness , tiredness , morning sickness, difficulty concentrating , as well as a change in personality and sometimes a delay in development.

Specific or local symptoms can sometimes be gait or balance disorders if the tumor is in the region of the cerebellum. However, if seizures occur again and again, the tumor may be present in the spinal cord area. Any sleep, consciousness or vision disorders can also give an indication of where or where the tumor is definitely not located.


If the doctor – based on the anamnesis and the physical examinations – expresses the suspicion that it could be a tumor in the central nervous system, the patient is subsequently admitted to the hospital as an inpatient. Facilities are selected that specialize primarily in childhood cancer; these include clinics for pediatric oncology or hematology .

It is important that only if there is a mere suspicion that specialists from a wide variety of disciplines are consulted when it comes to the final diagnosis and localization of the tumor. In the case of an ependymoma, not only the diagnosis but also the localization and form must be diagnosed; those factors contribute a significant part to the treatment.

The specialists carry out physical as well as neurological examinations; Imaging methods ( computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging ) are also used so that the doctors can determine whether there is a tumor and where it is located and whether metastases have already occurred that have spread to the spinal cord canal or the brain.

The imaging methods also help to determine how large the tumor already is. However, in order for the diagnosis to be definitively secured, a tissue sample must be taken and then subjected to a histological examination. The prognosis depends primarily on the stage at which the diagnosis was made.

If the ependymoma can be completely removed, the five-year survival rate is just under 70 percent and around 60 percent when it comes to the ten-year survival rate. However, if the tumor cannot be completely removed or subsequent radiation can help, the 10-year survival rate is around 35 percent.


The complications and further course of ependymoma depend heavily on the spread of the tumor and the affected area. In most cases, the usual symptoms associated with cancer occur. The patient primarily suffers from loss of appetite, headaches and severe weight loss.

Tiredness often occurs that cannot be compensated for by sleep. The patient is exhausted and complains of a general feeling of weakness. It can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, the concentration also decreases. The affected person is severely restricted in their everyday life due to the symptoms and can usually no longer carry out their usual activities.

If it spreads widely, it can also lead to visual disturbances or balance disorders. Since the cancer spreads primarily in the back area, there is increased pain and seizures there. The treatment is surgical and aims primarily at removing the tumor.

The earlier treatment is started, the fewer complications will occur. In some cases, several surgical procedures are necessary to completely remove the tumor. After the operation, there is chemotherapy. If the treatment is successful, no further complications should arise.

When should you go to the doctor?

The general practitioner should be consulted with recurring seizures, dizziness, back pain and headaches and other symptoms of ependymon . Gait and balance disorders as well as consciousness, sleep or vision disorders must also be clarified before further complications arise. If there are serious symptoms, a visit to the hospital is indicated. In the event of severe cramps or accidents as a result of a seizure, it is best to call the emergency services immediately.

An ependymon must be diagnosed and treated in any case, because if left untreated, the tumor causes increasingly severe symptoms and, in the worst case, can even lead to death. Therefore: consult a doctor at the first sign. Once the tumor has been diagnosed, surgical treatment is usually carried out immediately.

If the ependymon has already caused personality changes, therapeutic measures may also have to be taken. Close monitoring by a doctor is definitely required after treatment. In addition, regular check-ups are necessary in order to be able to identify and treat any recurrences at an early stage.

Treatment & Therapy

Due to the fact that specialist nursing staff and specialized doctors work in pediatric oncology facilities, the treatment should definitely take place in such a facility. This is the only way to be sure that the patient is not only treated in the best possible way, but that relatives are also carefully introduced to the subject. Furthermore, such facilities are also known for being able to use the latest therapy and process methods to combat ependymoma.

The ependymoma is treated surgically in almost all cases; the doctor speaks of a tumor resection or removal of the tumor. In recent years, tumor resection has impressively shown that it can have a positive effect on the course of the disease and that the prognosis (with regard to the five- or ten-year survival rate) can also be significantly improved.

However, if the ependymoma is only diagnosed at an advanced stage, so that only a partial resection is possible, not only does the course of the disease worsen, but also the prognosis. It becomes problematic primarily when the ependymoma is located in the 4th cerebral ventricle or grows into the cerebellar pontine angle; in those cases only partial removal is possible.

If the medical professional decided to remove it completely, this could sometimes ensure that vital (and healthy) brain tissue would be injured. If the first operation does not completely remove the tumor, a second operation can be scheduled later so that a tumor resection can be achieved in the second attempt. Radiation therapy is given after the operation ; in some cases, chemotherapy may also be prescribed.

Outlook & Forecast

An ependymoma can take a very different course depending on the cause and location of the tumor. If the tumor is located in the superficial tissues, in most cases it can be completely removed. Further treatment measures are then not necessary. However, the patient must undergo comprehensive follow-up care so that any recurrences and other complications can be recognized quickly.

If the tumor can be completely removed, there is a 60 to 75 percent chance that the patient will survive more than ten years. The prerequisite for this is that the disease does not progress. If the ependymoma cannot be completely removed, for example because it is located under a vital organ, there is a 30 to 40 percent chance that the patient will survive more than ten years.

Self-help measures and comprehensive follow-up care can improve the prospect of recovery. However, there can always be complications that worsen the prognosis. In principle, however, an ependymoma offers a good prognosis. If the tumor has not yet spread, there is a good chance that the patient can lead a long, symptom-free life.


Preventive measures are not yet known. Due to the fact that no definitive causes have been found so far that could trigger an ependymoma, no preventive accents are possible so that the ependymoma does not occur.


In the case of an ependymoma, the options for aftercare are relatively severely limited in most cases. The patient is primarily dependent on direct and medical treatment by a specialist in order to prevent further complications and the further spread of the tumor. In general, follow-up care for an ependymoma is therefore aimed at regularly checking the body for other tumors in order to identify and remove them at an early stage.

In some cases, however, this disease also limits the life expectancy of those affected, although treatment is not always possible. In the case of an ependymoma, the person affected is also dependent on the help and support of friends and their own family. This can also prevent psychological problems.

In some cases, contact with other people affected by the ependymoma can also be useful. Since a complete treatment of the disease is not always possible, those affected are often dependent on the help of other people in their everyday lives. Loving care in particular has a positive effect on the further course of the disease. Early detection of ependymoma is also a priority.

You can do that yourself

An ependymoma always requires specialist treatment. Which measures parents of affected children can take themselves always depends on the individual circumstances of the tumor disease.

Basically, the child must be informed about the disease. Any questions are best answered in consultation with a doctor. Since those affected and their relatives usually feel great anxiety, therapeutic advice should also be sought. Visiting a self-help group enables exchange with other sufferers and can thus give a better perspective on the disease and how to deal with it.

If chemotherapy or radiotherapy has to be carried out, an individual therapy should be worked out together with a nutritionist and the responsible doctor. An adapted diet, physical exercise and other measures can support the treatment and improve well-being.

After the treatment, the most important measure is regular check-ups. An ependymon can form recurrences, which must be detected and treated promptly in order to rule out a negative course. If the tumor is already well advanced, further therapeutic measures are indicated. In the event of death, a professionally guided grieving process is required.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.