Ependymoma is a rare type of tumor of the brain or spinal cord. It can happen in both children and adults. In children, these tumors tend to be in the brain. In adults, they are often in the spinal cord.
Your brain and your spinal cord make up your central nervous system (CNS). Ependymoma is a primary CNS tumor. This means that it starts in the brain or spinal cord rather than starting somewhere else in the body and spreading to the brain.
Ependymoma is a kind of glioma. This is a tumor that develops from support cells (glial cells) of the brain. These tumors arise from abnormal growth of a certain type of glial cells, the ependymal cells. These cells line the ventricles of the brain. The ventricles are the chambers that contain the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes and cushions the brain and spinal cord. Ependymomas may spread within the CSF to other places in the brain or spinal cord. These tumors don’t typically spread beyond the CNS.
Most ependymomas are relatively slow-growing tumors. There are 4 types:
- Subependymoma is a usually slow-growing, benign tumor of the ventricles in adults
- Myxopapillary ependymoma is a slow-growing spinal cord tumor usually in young adults
- Classic ependymoma is a somewhat faster-growing tumor in both children and adults
- Anaplastic ependymoma is a faster-growing tumor often near the base of the brain
A tumor in the brain may cause problems by pressing against part of the brain and causing symptoms.