Causes and Risk Factors of Ependymoma

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Like many other types of tumors, how and why ependymomas form is not fully understood. What researchers do know is that ependymomas form from glial cells that grow atypically. Glial cells support functions and act as a "glue" for the CNS. When these cells grow out of control, they can form ependymomas.

This article reviews the most common causes and risk factors for developing an ependymoma.

Doctor looking at brain tumor on computer

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Common Causes

Ependymoma is a type of glioma that grows from glial cells in the brain or spine. They are usually genetic.

Under normal circumstances, glial cells support and provide stability for neurons throughout the CNS. They form from dysfunctional glial cells that cause other cells in the CNS to grow more quickly than usual, causing a tumor to form.

Ependymomas are one of the rarest types of brain cancer, accounting for only 1.8% of total CNS tumors. Since there is a strong genetic component behind its development, there is currently no known way to prevent an ependymal tumor.

This type of cancer influences the development and progression of cancer cells within the brain and spine.


People with a genetic disease called neurofibromatosis type 2, which cause tumors to form on nerve tissue, have a significantly increased chance of developing an ependymoma. NF2 is inherited genetically, and those with the disease have an increased chance of developing many other types of CNS tumors.

There are no other known risk factors for developing an ependymoma. The risk of development is not known to be influenced by health history, cardiovascular metrics, or other lifestyle risk factors.


Aside from having a genetic risk, there are no other known risk factors or causes of ependymoma. For that reason, there is no real way to screen for or prevent the condition at this time. The best prognosis comes with early diagnosis and treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of ependymoma, make an appointment with your healthcare provider for a physical exam, neurological exam, or other recommended diagnostic testing.

A Word From Verywell

Receiving a diagnosis of ependymoma can be scary, especially when there are no real measures you can take to prevent CNS tumors like ependymomas from occurring. However, the good news is that there are several effective treatment options available, and the survival rate is high for many patients. Talk to your healthcare provider about your diagnosis to develop a treatment plan that is best for you.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Wu J, Armstrong TS, Gilbert MR. Biology and management of ependymomasNeuro Oncol. 2016;18(7):902-913. doi:10.1093/neuonc/now016

  3. Cachia D, Johnson DR, Kaufmann TJ, et al. Case-based review: ependymomas in adultsNeuro-Oncol Pract. 2018;5(3):142-153. doi:10.1093/nop/npy026

  4. Plotkin SR, O’Donnell CC, Curry WT, Bove CM, MacCollin M, Nunes FP. Spinal ependymomas in neurofibromatosis Type 2: a retrospective analysis of 55 patientsJ Neurosurg Spine. 2011;14(4):543-547. doi:10.3171/2010.11.SPINE10350

  5. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Ependymoma - childhood - risk factors.

  6. National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research. Ependymoma diagnosis and treatment.

By Sarah Jividen, RN
Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a freelance healthcare journalist and content marketing writer at Health Writing Solutions, LLC. She has over a decade of direct patient care experience working as a registered nurse specializing in neurotrauma, stroke, and the emergency room.