General Information About Childhood Ependymoma
Childhood ependymoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
The brain controls vital functions such as memory and learning, the senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch), and emotion. The spinal cord is made up of bundles of nervefibers that connect the brain with nerves in most parts of the body.
About 1 in 11 childhood brain tumors are ependymomas. Although cancer is rare in children, brain tumors are the most common type of childhood cancer other than leukemia and lymphoma.
This summary refers to the treatment of primary brain tumors (tumors that begin in the brain). Treatment of metastatic brain tumors, which are tumors formed by cancer cells that begin in other parts of the body and spread to the brain, is not discussed in this summary.
There are many different types of brain tumors. Brain tumors can occur in both children and adults; however, treatment for children may be different than treatment for adults. See the following PDQ summaries for more information:
- Childhood Brain and Spinal Cord Tumors Treatment Overview
- Adult Brain Tumors Treatment
The central nervous system controls many important body functions.
Ependymomas most commonly form in these parts of the central nervous system (CNS):
- Cerebrum: The largest part of the brain, at the top of the head. The cerebrum controls thinking, learning, problem-solving, speech, emotions, reading, writing, and voluntary movement.
- Cerebellum: The lower, back part of the brain (near the middle of the back of the head). The cerebellum controls movement, balance, and posture.
- Brain stem: The part that connects the brain to the spinal cord, in the lowest part of the brain (just above the back of the neck). The brain stem controls breathing, heart rate, and the nerves and muscles used in seeing, hearing, walking, talking, and eating.
- Spinal cord: The column of nerve tissue that runs from the brain stem down the center of the back. It is covered by three thin layers of tissue called membranes. The spinal cord and membranes are surrounded by the vertebrae (back bones). Spinal cord nerves carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body, such as a signal from the brain to cause muscles to move or from the skin to the brain for the sense of touch.
|Anatomy of the brain, showing the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, and other parts of the brain.||Anatomy of the inside of the brain, showing the pineal and pituitary glands, optic nerve, ventricles (with cerebrospinal fluid shown in blue), and other parts of the brain.|
The cause of most childhood brain tumors is unknown.
The symptoms of childhood ependymoma vary and often depend on the child's age and where the tumor is located.