How Ependymoma Is Treated

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Ependymoma is a genetic central nervous system (CNS) tumor that begins in the brain or spinal cord. Ependymomas develop out of ependymal cells, or glial cells, which help provide structural support in the CNS. Surgery is usually the first-line treatment, and medications can be used to treat symptoms.

This article discusses surgeries, medications, and other treatments for ependymoma.

Doctor looking at brain scan

mustafagull / Getty Images

Prescriptions

There are no known medications to treat or cure an ependymoma tumor. However, medications may be necessary to treat some of the tumor's effects on the brain and spinal cord, such as:

Since the primary treatment for ependymoma tumors is surgical removal, there may be other pre- and post-surgical medications that your healthcare provider will prescribe.

Ependymoma Prevalence

Ependymomas account for only about 3% of primary brain tumors in adults. However, this tumor is the sixth most common type of brain tumor in children, and 30% of childhood ependymomas occur in children younger than 3 years old.

Surgeries and Procedures

Surgery is generally the first step for suspected ependymoma following diagnostic tests.

However, some ependymoma tumor locations may make removal difficult or impossible. In that case, surgeons usually try to remove as much of the tumor as they can as safely as possible.

Biopsy During Surgery

During the surgery, a biopsy may be taken to examine the grade of your tumor prior to removal. Biopsies allow your healthcare team to examine the tumor tissue in a lab for formal diagnosis and plan the right course of treatment.

Following surgery, there is no formal treatment for the management of ependymomas. In some cases, no further treatment is necessary.

Other patients may require one or more of several different treatments, such as:

  • Radiation: The use of high-powered radiation waves to break down cancer cells to shrink or destroy them
  • Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer medications that stop cancer cell growth or kill the cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given by oral pill, injected into a muscle or vein, or given through an IV for delivery throughout the body.
  • Clinical trials: Trials designed to find more effective ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat an illness

New treatments for ependymoma that are not available to the general public may be available only through enrolling in a clinical trial. Talk to your healthcare provider or research clinical trials online for more information.

Patients diagnosed with ependymoma usually work alongside a healthcare team to help determine the best treatment path. It is essential to communicate your questions clearly to your healthcare team in order to understand your diagnosis and options thoroughly.

Treatments, procedures, and next steps are usually determined based on several factors, such as:

  • Patient's age
  • Tumor type
  • Tumor location
  • If there is a remaining tumor left behind after surgery

Summary

Ependymomas are a rare type of CNS tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord. The primary treatment is the surgical removal of the entire tumor or as much of the tumor as possible. Depending on the tissue pathology results, a healthcare team may recommend further treatment options, such as chemotherapy, radiation, or clinical trials (if available).

A Word From Verywell

Receiving an ependymoma diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming, but effective treatment options are available. There may even be ongoing clinical trials that could be a good fit for your diagnosis and treatment. As with any tumor diagnosis, it's important to discuss your diagnosis thoroughly with your healthcare team to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Early tumor detection is essential so that you can start treatment. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of ependymoma, talk to your healthcare provider about diagnostic tests to see if there is a medical cause.

Was this page helpful?
4 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.
  1. National Cancer Institute. Ependymoma diagnosis and treatment. Updated July 21, 2021.

  2. Fonkem E, Bricker P, Mungall D, et al. The role of levetiracetam in treatment of seizures in brain tumor patientsFront Neurol. 2013;4:153. doi:10.3389/fneur.2013.00153

  3. Dixit KS, Kumthekar PU. Optimal management of corticosteroids in patients with intracranial malignanciesCurr Treat Options Oncol. 2020;21(9):77. doi:10.1007/s11864-020-00771-7

  4. American Brain Tumor Association. Ependymoma.