A specific type of brain tumor, ependymomas are glial in nature and develop from the ependymal cells within the central nervous system, especially those lining the brain where cerebrospinal fluid is produced and stored. Categorized according to the area where they’re found, ependymomas can be either supratentorial (affecting the cerebral hemispheres) or infratentorial (affecting the back of the brain). Ependymomas are also known to develop from the cells at the bottom of brain as well as from the spaces in the center of the brain that are filled with fluid and known as ventricles. And when they grow in the ventricles they can lead to hydrocephalus or an abnormal buildup of fluid on the brain.
Simply put, tumors are abnormal growths due to unnecessary cell multiplication that serves no proper function in the human body. Typically, cell multiplication is controlled by suppressor genes, which continually act to protect cells from cancer-causing genes known as oncogenes. However, when suppressor genes fail because of changes in their protein coding, tumor can develop as cell division becomes unregulated.
Whereas our body’s built-in defenses find and destroy these abnormal cells, naturally occurring chemicals sometimes hamper the ability of our immune system to see these cells, as which point they become strong enough and exist in large enough numbers to overpower any of body’s defenses.
Exposure to too much radiation and some genetic disorders are associated with ependymomas, and they occur in children as well as adults, most often at the ages of five and 34. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, symptoms may include headaches, chronic tiredness, nausea, issues with mobility and coordination and changes in thinking and cognitive abilities.
A diagnosis of an ependymomas is attained through a neurological exam and imaging, and treatment usually involves a combination of surgery and chemotherapy or radiotherapy.