Fast Facts

The CERN Foundation is dedicated to helping you understand ependymoma. See below for a list of ependymoma facts about the disease.

Ependymoma tumor description

  • An ependymoma is a rare type of primary brain or spinal cord tumor
  • An ependymoma is a rare type of glial tumor; glial cells are the cells that support brain
  • Primary brain and spinal cord tumors are those that start in the central nervous system (CNS)
  • These ependymoma tumors are classified and graded according to their appearance when viewed through the microscope
  • Ependymomas can be found in children and adults

Ependymoma tumor incidence

Ependymoma tumors account for two percent (in adults) and five percent (in children) of CNS tumors.

Incidence in children:

  • The third most common pediatric brain tumor
  • The most common type of primary spinal cord tumor
  • Approximately 250 children are diagnosed per year
  • Most commonly occur in the brain

Incidence in adults:

  • Two percent of adult gliomas
  • Approximately 1,100 adults are diagnosed per year
  • Most commonly occur in the spinal cord

Staging and grading

  • Ependymoma may spread throughout the CNS
  • Spread outside of the CNS is rare
  • All can recur (regrow)
  • Graded on a scale of I to III (World Health Organization [WHO] Grading system)
  • Grade I
    • Myxopapillary ependymoma and subependymoma
    • Myxopapillary ependymomas generally occur in the spinal cord in adults
    • Both tumors tend to grow slowly, especially the subependymoma
  • Grade II and III
    • Classic ependymomas and ependymoma subtypes or variants (Grade II) and anaplastic ependymoma (Grade III)
    • These occur mainly in the brain
    • These tumors grow more quickly than Grade I tumors

Spinal cord and brain tumor symptoms

Symptoms depend on the tumor location. Any symptoms you have should be discussed with your doctor

Common brain tumor symptoms include:

  • Headache or pressure in the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness or numbness and tingling

Common spinal cord symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms, legs or trunk
  • Problems going to the bathroom or controlling bowel or bladder function

Causes and treatment

  • The cause is not known. It rarely occurs in multiple family members, although does occur in people with Neurofibromatosis type 2.
  • Most people with ependymomas, of any grade, will undergo surgery to remove a tumor.
  • Depending on the tumor grade, location and how much of the tumor has been removed, radiation therapy is often given.
  • The role of chemotherapy has not been established, but researchers are working to find new effective treatments.

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